Why we need a new private sector Tansik-style university application system: The Higher Education Ministry is set to launch a unified platform for private university application next week. The platform will consolidate enrollment applications to all non-state universities regulated by the Supreme Council of Private Universities. We broke down its structure last week. Because the system is new, there’s been apprehension about how it will change the application process.
The system was set up to stop private universities admitting students because of connections or their ability to pay when they haven’t met academic requirements. It will set a clear benchmark for admissions, streamlining and simplifying a process that has become difficult to navigate and often expensive, argue proponents.
Admissions will be exclusively based on academic ability- gov’t: Student admissions and distribution among private universities will be grade-determined, says Mohamed Helmy Al Ghar, head of the Supreme Council of Private Universities, which is spearheading the plan. Students without the grades won’t be allowed in because they can pay, or because of social connections. This benefits high-achieving students, he says.
Private universities acknowledge that under current admissions systems, the final grade doesn’t always top entry criteria. Private universities do currently sometimes prioritize language skills or other personal characteristics over the final grade in their selection process, note Future University of Egypt head Ebada Sarhan and Chinese University president Ashraf El Shehi.
And if the final grade is the key admissions determinant, places won’t be offered because of personal connections, says Japanese University president Ahmed El Gohary. Other private university operators have confirmed this does currently happen, and concur the new platform is a way of addressing the problem. Using an electronic monitoring system will make the admissions process more transparent, without preventing universities from setting their own entry criteria and exams, El Gohary adds.
Complaints of unfairness made streamlining and regulating the admissions process a priority, he adds. The ministry has received “many” complaints over the years from students turned down by private universities when lower-scoring peers were accepted, says Al Gohary. As private universities increase, the need for a centralized system that regulates admissions becomes more important, he adds. We should note, however, we have not found data to demonstrate just how widespread this problem is.
Still, there’s a cohort of parents convinced of the problem and (currently) on board with the solution. A unified platform is absolutely necessary for a fair admissions process, believes parent Manar Mohammed. Unclear entry requirements and scoring often leave parents unsure of what’s needed for their children to be accepted by private universities, she says. Mohammed knows of cases where universities accepted students whose grades were lower than listed criteria, or lower than previously rejected students.
Parents say the whole system needs better coordination: The current application process is decentralized, particularly when it comes to the timing of the application process, argues Mohammed. A student wanting to study an in-demand subject will probably apply to several different universities, and might have to wait until the second or third admissions phase before knowing if she was accepted at her first choice university. If she’s offered a place elsewhere, it can only be secured with a down payment.
So a family could pay some EGP 100k to three or four universities for one child just to ensure a place in a good private university studying their preferred discipline, says Mohammed. Increased demand for private university education has heightened the exploitation of parents’ willingness to pay, she adds.
Centralized applications and clearly benchmarked requirements would (ideally) remove the need for multiple university down payments. Mohammed hopes the new platform will allow students to apply to multiple universities using only one application form. She also wants grade cut-off points for entry clearly laid out, eliminating the need for backup down payments. Under the new system, students will be able to apply to all their chosen universities at once, as opposed to applying directly to each university.
But fears about the system’s rollout, its impact on schools’ bottom lines and student choice are growing. Individual universities worry that the system’s distribution mechanism could restrict their student numbers, hitting profits. And among students, the prospect of losing the final choice of where they attend university is causing consternation. We discuss these concerns in greater detail next week.
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