TCD to try out new admissions system

Mon, Jan 14, 2013, 00:00

Trinity College Dublin is to try out a new admissions system that is designed to give it a more rounded picture of student achievement than the Leaving Certificate examination.

The system aims to promote wider access to the college as students will provide personal information about their backgrounds in addition to other information.

It should help to ensure students are accepted onto courses that suit them as they will be asked to explain their college choice in some detail.

Under the new system, 25 places will be reserved on three courses for students using the alternative entry method: law (10), history (10) and ancient and medieval history and culture (5).

Students may be able to gain access to these courses even if their Leaving Cert points score is up to 100 points below the points requirement. For example, a student could gain entry to law on 425 points, which is 100 points below last year’s requirement, if the assessment panel believes he or she has a strong case. Students will be asked to submit 250 to 500 words on subjects such as their favourite quotation, a character in fiction, an issue of local, national or international interest of importance to them, a significant experience or ethical dilemma they have faced or a topic of their choice.

Concerns

Concerns will be raised that parents, teachers and others could complete the personal information forms on behalf the student. However, Dr Patrick Geoghegan, the dean of undergraduate studies, said he was confident this would not be an issue.

The places will be offered from next January for admission the following September. The system will operate on a trial basis for two years. It will then be assessed by third-level colleges and the Central Applications Office (CAO).

Special circumstances

Under the system, all applications will be made anonymous before evaluation with each student given a designated number. Students will also be asked about special circumstances, such as illness or the death of a family member, or achievements not reflected in their application.

The system could become a template for the kind of changes expected as part of Leaving Cert reform over the coming years. Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn favours reforms of the exam that give a more rounded picture of student achievement.

When applying through the CAO for any of the three TCD courses, students can use the traditional admissions route based on points, but they can also opt to have their application considered under the new system. Last year, TCD provost Dr Patrick Prendergast suggested it was time to escape from the “narrow gate of formulaic college admissions . . . towards something that helps identify academic ability and potential”.

Students will be assessed on the basis of three elements:

Leaving Certificate points

Relative Performance Rank (RPR) – the performance of the applicant relative to other applicants from their school

Personal and Contextual Data – provided via supplementary materials submitted by the applicant