Does background affect university performance?

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chazwomaq
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#1
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#1
According to the latest research from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, pupils from state schools are more likely to get good degrees than pupils from indepdent schools with equivalent A-level grades. The suggestion is that an independent school artificially boosts performance, which is then lost at university.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...r-seconds.html

http://www.theguardian.com/education...s-universities

"If you look at those who gain BBC grades at A level, 65% of those from state schools go on to get a first or upper second, compared to 53% from independent schools," said Mark Gittoes, Hefce's research director.
For some, this justifies giving "contextual offers" i.e. lower offers to state pupils to level the playing field:

Rachel Wenstone, National Union of Students vice president, said: ‘If those from state schools are out-performing similarly qualified peers from independent schools, those students should be given a fair chance to fulfil their potential and this must be recognised in admissions processes.
‘These figures confirm the case for using contextual data when making decisions about university entry to help widen participation in higher education.’
However, the same data also show that black and Asian students do worse in their degrees that white students with the same grades. So by the same statistical logic, universities should give these minority students higher offers! I do not support that approach at all, but why does it seem justified when considering schooling?

Interestingly, there is no evidence that pupils from schools with low achievement do worse at university, thus undermining contextual offers that consider school performance.

Nice graphs at http://www.theguardian.com/news/data...=ILCNETTXT3487
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russellsteapot
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The 'quality' of your school is a reasonably quantifiable structural factor which can impact your grades quite significantly. For that reason, I think contextual offers are a great idea.

Whether someone is black, white or Asian is not a structural factor affecting A level performance (it might hint at a greater likelihood of marginality, but that's about it). It's about as useful in terms of making contextual offers as whether a student is 5'11" or 6'3". I'm sure if they measured that, they'd find some difference there as well. And there's probably a difference between students who like Pokemon and students who don't like horses.

I don't think the data can tell us much about why black and Asians underperform compared to white people with the same grades, but if I had to guess, part of it is because there's a documented tendency to apply for competitive/challenging courses, and some of it will be due to international student disadvantage (e.g. language skills - black/Asian kids are more likely to be from outside the UK) which don't show up so much during A level, but can impact university much more. And probably some other issues too. Who knows. I'd be surprised if any of the issues people can find are able to justify contextual offers though.
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chazwomaq
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#3
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(Original post by russellsteapot)
The 'quality' of your school is a reasonably quantifiable structural factor which can impact your grades quite significantly. For that reason, I think contextual offers are a great idea.
If by quality you mean average grades of the school, then the research suggests there is no link with subsequent performance.

Also of note - women get better degrees than men with same grades. Should they get lower offers?
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russellsteapot
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#4
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(Original post by chazwomaq)
If by quality you mean average grades of the school, then the research suggests there is no link with subsequent performance.

Also of note - women get better degrees than men with same grades. Should they get lower offers?
The quality of your school will affect your A level performance though. Contextual offers don't try to compensate for performance after entry, they compensate for performance before entry.

And no, male/female would fall under the same category as race, for me. Statistically significant, but for other reasons.
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cambio wechsel
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#5
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It's these data that need contextualizing. We might otherwise have a Simpson's paradox, with the picture differing substantially between partitioned and aggregated data.
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justanotherposter
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#6
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#6
The results in this study seem obvious, the quality of education is obviously higher in private schools than state schools, so if a state school kid manages to get the same results as a private school kid it seems obvious than on average the state school kid is more gifted since he managed to achieve the same grades with less of a helping hand, hence when they both get to uni and the playing field is leveled it isn't suprising that the state school kid does better.
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