Tuesday, March 27, 2018

French university admissions

The World View has a story on what I take to be ongoing attempts to reform university admissions in France in response to sometimes conflicting concerns.

The Reform of French University Admissions
by Stephanie Mignot-Gerard , March 13, 2018

"After months of extensive consultations, the French Minister of Higher Education and Research, Frederique Vidal, disclosed her bill for a reform of the French public universities admission system on October 30. The reform was rushed due to the turmoil of the random enrollment of 3000 bacheliers at 169 university programs. The randomized procedure concerned the fields of studies where student applications exceeded the seats available (especially in sport studies, psychology and law). The new system had been in place for a couple of years, but remained unnoticed until massive numbers of students were affected this year. A glitch in the software—Admission Post Bac (APB)—allowed 2016 bacheliers to re-start their first year in university in a different field. The result spurred student union protests throughout the summer.
"Prior to 2008, when APB was put in place, students had to rank 24 degree choices and university seats were allocated through a complex algorithm that took into account high school grades and the geographical location of student’s home. With the 2017 reform, students can only make 10 non-ranked program choices at any university within the national territory. But the major innovation is twofold. First, high school teachers now have responsibility for providing orientation and offering recommendations based on the choices a student has made. Second, even if the decision about where to apply remains with the student, universities still have the autonomy and right to reject them.

"Student unions remain divided on the government proposal. The reformist association, the FAGE, now a leader at the national level, sees the government’s decision to allow students to decide where to study as a victory. On the other hand, the leftist UNEF claims that the government project undermines the French legal principle of higher education for all and calls for demonstrations. Surprisingly, high school and university students are not easy to mobilize; the UNEF actually—likely deliberately—seems to ignore that the selective admission taboo ended a long time ago. A survey by the magazine L’Etudiant in 2016 of 2500 high school and university students indicated that more than 57% were in favor of some selection."

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