Universities use study tests to scare off potential students

Universities use study tests to scare off potential students

Universities use study tests, meant to help high school students decide on what study they want to enroll in, to scare off weaker students. This statement was made by the Keuzegids Universiteiten, the ‘choice guide’ for Dutch academic studies. Information talks and tests are used to discourage a group of students from choosing a certain program. “Universities unfairly create the image that students have to meet certain demands to be admitted,” says Mayke Belet, editor at Keuzegids.Popular programs, like Psychology or Medicine, select students by numerus fixus, a lottery system. For other study programs, there are different rules: they can give advise and select on students who chose certain subjects in high school, but they cannot refuse students based on their grades. “Those study programs also want the best students,” says Belet. “They don’t get to do a numerus fixus, so they use the study choice check to steer students.” The problem is misleading information: “For students, it is not always clear that the study choice check is just an advice.”

As an example, Belet tells the story of a student who wanted to go to the Delft University of Technology. He got what is called a ‘matching conversation’, used to see if the student makes the right choice. “During that conversation, he had to tell the university what grades he expected to have at the end of the year. The exams were still coming up, and he was not too sure about himself and estimated his grades quite low,” says Belet. “After that, they really tried to discourage him. He received an e-mail that, in red letters, told him he was in the ‘risk group’. Luckily, his tutor and his parents checked the admission demands and found out that he could not be refused.” Not all students are that lucky, says Belet. “You can imagine that, if a student comes from an environment where attending university is not that self-evident, this perseverance is less common.”

“For students, it is not always clear that the study choice check is just an advice”

Tilburg University
Our own university also knows how to make students doubt their choice. “You are in the top 30 percent of your class,” is one of the demands at the bachelor Global Law. “We decide this according to your list of grades, if you have a 7 out of 10 on average, you meet this demand. If you are júst below that, you can always apply and we will treat your admission fairly.”

The scale of this ‘secret selection’ is not clear. “Not all universities do it, we know that,” says Belet. “We have not been able to do a thorough research on this, but there are clear signals from our environment. We hope that this starts a debate, so that the information the university provides becomes more transparent.”


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