Uni quotas offer quantity, not quality

Editorial | Mary Ma 6 Sep 2018

It's misleading for lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen to call for a rigid quota to tie universities' hands in light of disappointing statistics showing fewer Joint University Programs Admissions System students being enrolled to study popular programs at our top universities.

Ip's view doesn't tell the full story.

Yes, it was upsetting there haven't been more JUPAS students admitted to study medicine at the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University of Hong Kong, to which I cannot express my disappointment more.

However, is it proper to specify a ratio? No ratio is perfect, and if one was imposed, it would be putting quantity before quality.

It's regrettable the universities haven't offered breakdowns in the JUPAS and non-JUPAS admission figures - especially those in medicine, law and business programs - for the current academic year. Perhaps those figures are considered too politically sensitive to publish.

The lawmaker said it's unfair to local students because the Diploma of Secondary Education examination they take was more difficult than International Baccalaureate and A-Levels. But is it more difficult? It's hard to say for certain.

However, it does make sense to make the admission system as open as possible. Then students would know how they compare with one another, no matter which public exams they took. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service adopted in Britain is a good example, as legitimately pointed out by Ip.

In applying through UCAS, every applicant is accorded scores based on grades. For example, in A-Levels, a score of 56 in UCAS translates to grade A* and 48 to grade A. In IB, 56 in UCAS is accorded grade H7, and 48 equals H6. According to the UCAS conversion table, grade 5** in DSE is equivalent to 56, 5* equals 52, and 5 equals 48 UCAS.

After the grades are converted, all applicants are rated on the same basis. The advantage is that the criteria are easy to understand.

However, it's prejudicial to suggest a higher total score would guarantee admission to study law or medicine, because the public exam results are only some - not all - of the factors considered by registrars.

How much does a grade 5** say about a student's aptitude? Only to a limited extent.

In Britain, students doing well in the A-Levels must also do well in additional exams if they want to be a doctor or lawyer before they are offered an interview. Leading medical schools at the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and University College London, for example, require candidates to sit for the Biomedical Admissions Test, while others mostly ask applicants to take a Clinical Aptitude Test.

Students applying to study law have to sit for the Law National Aptitude Test, in addition to obtaining top grades in A Level.

There are also the common hurdles like personal statements and interviews to overcome. So, why do the top schools create so many hurdles? It is because, while public exam results matter, they do not fully reflect a student's aptitude.

Limiting universities to choosing JUPAS students is a bad idea.

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