Andrew Harvey and Andrea Simpson, Powers of Prediction: Can school recommendations forecast university achievement?

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John Rose-Adams
9 January 2012

 

To be presented at the Widening Participation Conference 2012 'Discourses of Inclusion in Higher Education', 24-25 April 2012
Powers of Prediction: Can school recommendations forecast university achievement?
Dr Andrew Harvey and Dr Andrea Simpson
Australian universities are increasingly using secondary school recommendations to create early entry pathways for prospective students.  School recommendations are supported on several grounds, including that they relieve pressure on prospective students, enable a wide range of capable students to enter university irrespective of their socio-economic background, and strengthen relations between universities and their partner schools.  Drawing on international evidence and detailed findings from an alternative entry pathway program at an Australian university, we argue that school forecasts alone are not likely to be highly accurate predictors of subsequent performance at university.  These findings do not negate the value of such pathways in broadening the university cohort, nor do they suggest that students who enter university through school recommendations are less likely to succeed than other cohorts.  The results do, however, suggest that universities and schools need to work closely together to develop transparent and reliable selection criteria. 

To be presented at the Widening Participation Conference 2012 'Discourses of Inclusion in Higher Education', 24-25 April 2012

Powers of Prediction: Can school recommendations forecast university achievement?

Dr Andrew Harvey and Dr Andrea Simpson

Australian universities are increasingly using secondary school recommendations to create early entry pathways for prospective students.  School recommendations are supported on several grounds, including that they relieve pressure on prospective students, enable a wide range of capable students to enter university irrespective of their socio-economic background, and strengthen relations between universities and their partner schools.  Drawing on international evidence and detailed findings from an alternative entry pathway program at an Australian university, we argue that school forecasts alone are not likely to be highly accurate predictors of subsequent performance at university.  These findings do not negate the value of such pathways in broadening the university cohort, nor do they suggest that students who enter university through school recommendations are less likely to succeed than other cohorts.  The results do, however, suggest that universities and schools need to work closely together to develop transparent and reliable selection criteria. 

 

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Interview with authors

The paper you are presenting is titled: . I’m interested to learn why you chose to pursue paper: Why these issues in particular? 

In recent years, numerous Australian universities have established ‘principal’s recommendation’ schemes where selected students receive early university offers.  These schemes exist both to increase market share and to attract students who might not receive high examination marks but who are academcially capable.  In La Trobe’s case, our early offer scheme (Schools Access La Trobe) has been expanding annually.  As with similar schemes, we know that our ‘early offer’ students perform relatively well.  However, we wanted to be able to provide specific feedback to the participating schools on whether their recommendations matched subsequent performance.  We felt this was particularly important in our case because our scheme was explicitly designed to limit administrative burden on the schools.  We simply ask schools to provide a ranking for students rather than a detailed description of their capacity and abilities, and we wanted to know if this method was reliable.  We also wanted to see to what extent SALT was attracting students who might not otherwise attend university (as opposed to those simply seeking the ‘insurance’ of an early offer).    

John Rose-Adams
13:56 on 17 April 2012

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