Doesn’t the phrase “equal opportunities” sound so appealing especially for disadvantaged sectors of society? Meaning well, leading world universities offer equal opportunities for all students despite their backgrounds and sometimes “equality” can be opposed to “fairness” in university admissions. Providing equal opportunities for students does not guarantee that they will be fairly selected while dividing available places between students of different backgrounds to make sure the places are equally distributed can deprive students from better schools of opportunities.
A recent article on university admissions talks about the matter of “equal opportunities” in Oxford and Cambridge universities in the UK. These universities are known to be one of the best universities in the world with the brightest students. Admission process and criteria are also way above other regular universities so not anyone can pass, and normally those who pass already have necessary credentials. Of course, universities who accept students from best schools may be criticised for being biased and discriminative against disadvantaged students. In order to have an equal proportion of students from different backgrounds, the universities start accepting students who more or less qualify to study to give hope to people that there is “fairness” in the society and all of us have “equal opportunities”. A business dictionary defines equal opportunities as “principle of non-discrimination which emphasizes that opportunities in education, employment, advancement, benefits and resource distribution, and other areas should be freely available to all citizens irrespective of their age, race, sex, religion, political association, ethnic origin, or any other individual or group characteristic unrelated to ability, performance, and qualification” (Ramsey, 2017). The emphasis here is at the word opportunities, it means that universities have to give a fair chance to all the application despite their backgrounds, both educational and financial, but when choosing the ones who truly deserve to study there all aspects except for skills should be put aside. The article states that in selecting applicants it is “better to look individually, to pool information about bright youngsters who have been attracted to (or encouraged towards) widening-access schemes (this by the way is a genuinely simple and great idea) and to spend time on individuals, rather than on algorithms” (Ramsey, 2017). It seems to be a good strategy, and though it is much work universities need capable students so they should not neglect any way to find jewels.
A good intention of universities to provide equal opportunities for all students is commendable, but the process of selection should be fair. Still, it is difficult to define what is “fair” to students who are not at fault for having fewer credentials than other more advantaged students. Taking away opportunities from students form better schools in order to give places to less advantaged students is not the best example of “fairness”. What do you think? How to make sure that students have equal opportunities and fair selection?
Ramsey, C. (2017, November 2). University admissions: ‘equal opportunity’ should not mean punishing pupils from good schools. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/11/02/university-admissions-equal-opportunity-should-not-mean-punishing/
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