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International Perspectives on Higher Education Admission Policy

A Reader

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Edited By Virginia Stead

The promise of this admission policy reader arises from the embodiment of research from 58 authors, six continents, 20 time zones, 20+ first languages, and a broad array of research methodologies. Four sections aggregate key themes within the text:
(1) National Perspectives on Higher Education Admission Policy;
(2) Theoretical Approaches to Higher Education Admission Policy;
(3) Applicant Recruitment and Student Support Services in Higher Education; and
(4) Diversity and Equity in Higher Education Admission Policy Implementation.
This book's global chorus of professional experience, investigation, and insight is unprecedented in its breadth and depth, illuminating a rare swath of challenges and opportunities that Internet-sourced international higher education makes visible. Although each chapter is an independent research report, together they generate a new landscape for admission policy orientation, exploration, and activism. The sheer range of policies and organizational infrastructure will alert all readers to many complexities within the admissions process that remain invisible within single or multiple but similar cultural and political contexts.
Many of these authors have demonstrated courage along with their intellectual acumen in tackling politically sensitive, culturally taboo, and personally dangerous topics within their research. Theirs is a moving testimony to the global quest for fairness within the world of admission policy implementation and to the power of access to higher education. Together, we are determined to advance equitable admissions praxis within all institutions of higher learning and promising futures for all students.
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29 Nonacademic Indicators in UK Higher Education Admissions: A Case Study of the Personal Statement

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CHAPTER 29

Nonacademic Indicators in UK Higher Education Admissions

A Case Study of the Personal Statement

Steven Jones

Introduction

Many nations require university applicants to submit a free response self-appraisal as part of the higher education (HE) admissions process. This text, most commonly known as a personal statement (PS), contributes towards decisions about whether applicants are accepted or rejected by their chosen universities. However, despite concerns about fairness being expressed for some time (Baird, 1985), it remains “a genre virtually ignored” (Brown, 2004, p. 242), and a process “mystified and occluded” (Ding, 2007, p. 387). The few empirical studies that are conducted tend to involve medical or social work applicants only (James & Hawkins, 2004; Lumb &Vail, 2004) and to consider how accurately the PS predicts future performance, not on how it is influenced by an applicant’s schooling or social background. In other words, the question asked has been “will this indicator identify the very best students?” rather than “is this indicator equitable?” In answer to the former question, the emerging consensus is that the PS is a limited indicator of potential and therefore a “highly dubious” (Norman, 2004, p. 81) method of selection. This chapter now considers the latter question, examining the extent to which the PS is shaped by the socioeconomic context in which it was created.

Later in the chapter, a case study is presented from the UK, where attention is...

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