"Contextual data" - a criterion for upgrading underprivileged students in UK's leading universities

Published On: 06 Aug 2012

 | Last Updated On: 06 Aug 2012

The grading system in reputed universities like Leeds, Bristol, Birmingham and Edinburg is experiencing a new twist to its criterion. In order to follow the government’s order to invite and create a much larger and wider social mix of a crowd in the university, the grades of a student belonging from a socially weak background, calling it “contextual data”, are being boost even if they secure a B in their A levels and GCSE exams. Reportedly, a student having a B in three subjects, hailing from a poorer family, is awarded points that equal a student securing three A s from a wealthier family. Therefore, the chances of being awarded points on “merit” basis has somewhat diminished for the student community. While some critics have mimicked the step to be called “generic discrimination”, the government hopes that the university crowd is a much diverse mix of people on the social front.

Points scoring criteria differ from one university to another like in Leeds, a student could earn 2 points just for attending a poor school, 2 points if they have attended care and two points for hailing from a place where young people attend university. Similarly, in Edinburgh, 16 points are awarded to students who secure an A* in GCSE or A levels, but a student with maximum “contextual data” benefit gets awarded 18 points even when they secure a B.

The headmaster of Magdalen College School, Oxford, and chairperson of the Headmasters and Headmistresses Conference universities committee, alleged the universities of not being transparent about their grading system and having kept the criteria a hush-hush to students and their families. He also opposes the step and thinks merit and accuracy are what the students deserve and the universities could lose their reputations in their attempt to achieve political correctness. The principal of Berkhamsted School was heard stating more deserving students would lose their seats to lesser ones. A professor at Buckingham University believes that awarding points on contextual basis is fine until it is done on an individual basis and does not prove to be a disadvantage to the luckier ones who had the privilege of attending better schools and institutions.

While Edinburgh believes that contextual data has helped to identify students with potential and they do not exclusively use the data for granting admissions, Leeds University claimed that they would not be using contextual data for admissions in 2012.

Source:The Telegraph

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