Beyond the points race?


Sir, – I was flabbergasted at the response from Dr William R Fitzsimmons (October 22nd) to the article “Students are guinea pigs in Trinity’s experiment” (Education Opinion, October 14th). The so-called holistic system he speaks of is one that works in theory and may be successful in the United States.

Unfortunately, this is Ireland and alternative methods of entry here can too easily fall victim to the cronyism that has infected this country to the core.

It has been clearly documented that personal statements, entrance examinations (in whatever form they take) and interviews favour students from a higher socio-economic background.

The fact that most of our third-level institutions are grossly underfunded will also put pressure to accept donations of finance that could be used to oil the wheels of alternative entry systems.

Those in Harvard, and similar world-class institutions, with their large endowments and grants, do not have this issue.

The CAO system, which I accept has its faults, is still a fair system that does not and cannot take into account where the student is from, how well they hold a fork or who their daddy or mommy is. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – Dr William Fitzsimons, dean of admissions at Harvard, who wrote in defence of TCD’s student admission experiment, was chairman of the 2008 US Commission on the Use of Standardised Tests in Undergraduate Admission.

That commission’s 2008 report states: “Universities may be better served by admission exams more closely related to high school curriculum”. The points system of admission does this.

The report further says that such exams “send a message to students that studying their course material in high school is the way to . . . succeed in a rigorous college curriculum”. The points system sends this message. The commission further states that preparation for non-curricular tests by school pupils “detracts from the most important element of a student’s college preparation – understanding the core subject matter”. The commission also expresses a concern that preparation for non-curricular tests may be more accessible to the affluent.

Eccentric admission experiments by elite institutions rely on the national system to admit those rejected in the experiment. The points system is a national system. TCD’s experiment can never be. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 5.