As UK universities get more desperate to admit as many students as before, personal statements in UCAS forms are getting lesser and lesser attention from admissions officers.
While some still give it a thorough look, some universities are bogged down with so many applications that they have had to hire external “professional selectors” to do the job for them, The Guardian reported.
“My instinct is that they’re probably not being read by teaching staff and I suspect they are being read less and less,” says Steven Jones, a researcher in higher education at Manchester Institute of Education.
“Even the more elite universities need to fill places and beneath that level, there’s a whole raft that doesn’t even look at them at all,” Jones said.
Do universities still bother reading personal statements? https://t.co/EnizCqKloW
— Guardian Students (@GdnStudents) January 11, 2018
Though some still scrutinise them carefully, many statements won’t even make it through an initial paper sift, according to Paul Teulon, director of admissions at King’s College London.
This development is seen to be good riddance by some who view the personal statements as a highly ineffective way to assess a candidate’s worthiness for university. Furthermore, there are way too many variance between and within universities on how personal statements are assessed – even if a good personal statement is said to tip the admission process in favour of the applicant, there is no clear guideline on how this actually plays out.
And although they could be argued to be useful in decisions that are not clear-cut, critics believe that UCAS should do away with them or at least phase them out gradually.
According to Dr Lee Elliot Major, CEO of the Sutton Trust, there is a whole industry built around them because so much is at stake.
“Private tutors and former graduates prepare and write them for these young people. You have to look at the system and ask the question: is it fair? I don’t think it is. Ucas should review it.”
At the University of Bristol, some departments have already tweaked their admissions policies,
“We now use them for 50 percent of ratings of candidates and I anticipate that will fall in years to come,” explains Simon Atkinson, who interviews medicine, veterinary and dentistry students there.
Referring to the use of personal statements for medicine applicants, Atkinson said: “They’re too unreliable, too easy to get a lot of help with writing, and too easy to write things that aren’t terribly true.”