Letter: University admissions criteria

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The Independent Online
Sir: As the admissions tutor for a very popular university degree, I welcome Colin Hughes's call for applicants to be assessed on more than their A-level grades ('There's more to it than simply making the grade', 26 August). Unfortunately, in making his case he presents a somewhat misleading impression of current practice.

In addition to teachers' predictions of likely A-level achievement, application forms contain detailed comments on candidates' aptitudes and enthusiasms, compiled by the school or college, and a mini-essay they submit themselves explaining their interests and reasons for wanting to do the course.

Given that we have to process a very large number of applications in a relatively short time, interviews have become the exception rather than the rule. The next best option is to take very seriously what candidates write about themselves. These self-presentations provide vital clues to the intangible qualities that are essential to success in a modern university - independence, initiative, a commitment to crossing traditional academic boundaries, and a clear rationale for choosing our particular course.

Nor is the decision-making process entirely impersonal. Admissions tutors are continually answering questions and offering advice over the telephone or by letter, and talking to applicants in person at the open days we hold throughout the academic year.

The process isn't perfect, but it goes some way towards meeting Mr Hughes's call for an admissions procedure that seeks to make a rounded assessment of candidates' overall fitness for particular courses. That so many of my academic colleagues continue to operate in this way in the face of ever rising numbers of applicants, and a cumulatively insulting series of decisions on pay and conditions, speaks volumes for their commitment to fair dealing.

But the fund of goodwill is now close to being overdrawn. If tutors are forced to fall back on making decisions solely on the basis of A- level grades, the responsibility will lie squarely with the present Government's policy of expansion without adequate funds.

Yours faithfully,

GRAHAM MURDOCK

Course Director

Communication and Media Studies

Department of Social Sciences

Loughborough University

Leicestershire

26 August

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