Lia Fluit

Column Lia Fluit: A winning lottery ticket?

A winning lottery ticket, who wouldn't want that? Even when it concerns serious matters? Your studies, for example? The NRC, a Dutch newspaper, of Saturday 28 January, carried an extensive article on the (possible) reintroduction of decentralised selection. It takes me back to my own study career. I received my high school diploma in 1974; just two years earlier, the lottery system was introduced. And lo and behold, I was not selected. A huge disappointment. I really wanted to become a doctor, even though I did not have a clear idea of what the study programme looked like and what kind of doctor I wanted to become.

In 1975 I tried again. By now, the system had become a weighted lottery, which means my chances had increased slightly. This time I was accepted, luckily. But I do not know whether I, if I started studying now, would get through the selection process. I am a so-called first-generation student, and in that case your chances of being selected are less likely, just like children of parents with a migration background.

At the time, the lottery system was introduced to limit the high influx of students. But from the start, it led to discussions. Supporters found a lottery to be fairer, opponents thought the same about selections. The resistance against the lottery system keeps increasing and more and more study programmes start selecting at the gate. Eventually, in 2017, the lottery system is abolished completely.

It might feel logical to select students based on qualities and motivation instead of a lottery number. But it turns out that selection results in an inequality of opportunity: girls are selected more often, just like children of highly educated parents, and children of parents who can pay for a commercial training to help prepare for the selection. And on top of that, selections are often scheduled during a period that is already stressful and busy for pupils due to final exams.

In recent years, a lot of research has been done on the effects of a decentralised selection process on the accessibility of our education. This research also provides the opportunity to develop alternative admission procedures. Researcher Lianne Mulder (Amsterdam UMC) showed that the diversity among medical students has decreased after the abolition of the lottery system. But she also does not want to go back to a lottery system without good reason, because you would still not achieve the desired diversity in the student population. She is currently researching contextualised admissions, in which you look at the prospective student as a person as well as the context in which they have achieved their results.

As a first-generation student, this seems like a great plan to me. And what it would it be like if students could choose their final studies at a later age? Give them the possibility and time to develop themselves more broadly and, for example, pursue a random college or university bachelor's degree first. No more added stress during their final exam year! More time as a student to get a better idea of your final study programme and the career options. And it also teaches them to look beyond the boundaries of their own discipline. Yes, that would be a winning lottery ticket for me!

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