‘Welcome onboard candidate X’
Name blind applications to be trialled at a Yorkshire uni
A West Yorkshire university has been selected as the only place of higher education in the North of England to trial a pilot scheme designed to eliminate ethnic bias in the admissions process.
The University of Huddersfield will take up the initiative for some undisclosed courses, starting in 2017, whereby the names of applicants will be masked out while it is decided whether to offer the applicant a place.
The ‘name-blind’ project has been set up to discover whether information about a would-be student’s ethnic background plays an unconscious part in the decision-making process.
Huddersfield is joined by the universities of Exeter, Liverpool and Winchester in the name-blind project, which is co-ordinated by UCAS, the UK’s shared admissions service, in tandem with the independent campaigning organisation Supporting Professionalism in Admissions.
University of Huddersfield chiefs say they are confident that their current admissions process is already fair and transparent, and that it selects applicants purely on the basis of talent and the ability to benefit from courses.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tim Thornton, continued: “We have one of the most open cultures in UK Higher Education, with a very large ‘widening participation’ cohort who go on to great academic and career success.
“Our participation in the name-blind trial in practice builds on existing practice at the University which has been developed over many years, and reflects our determination to be at the cutting-edge when it comes to fair and effective admissions policies.”
The four universities volunteered for the name-blind experiment, in response to a call made by the then Prime Minister, David Cameron.
He was reacting to the publication of a report highlighting ‘concerns in government’ that well-qualified people are not getting offers from universities and colleges because of ‘bias in higher education admissions’.
The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield, Professor Bob Cryan, is a member of the UCAS board and was keen for his institution to take part.
Helen Thorne, UCAS’ Director of External Relations, said: “Managing university admissions is a complex business. Universities use different technology systems and many use a number of different admissions processes for individual subjects.
“Admissions professionals are concerned that if UCAS were to mask names centrally this could affect their ability to maintain relationships with students and undermine efforts to widen participation.
“The projects being undertaken in 2017 will enable universities to evaluate the effectiveness of a name-blind approach and how it could complement existing approaches used to ensure that admissions are fair for all.”