A systems analysis of selection for tertiary education : Queensland as a case study

Maxwell, Graham Samuel. (1997). A systems analysis of selection for tertiary education : Queensland as a case study PhD Thesis, School of Education, The University of Queensland.

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Author Maxwell, Graham Samuel.
Thesis Title A systems analysis of selection for tertiary education : Queensland as a case study
School, Centre or Institute School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1997
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Butler, Jim
Total pages 413
Language eng
Subjects 130103 Higher Education
130303 Education Assessment and Evaluation
130108 Technical, Further and Workplace Education
Formatted abstract Selection for tertiary education, defined as including both higher education and technical education at post-secondary level, becomes an important issue where the number of applicants exceeds the number of places. This thesis explores selection for tertiary education as a complex problem in which selection processes are shaped by and must fit with the educational context. A general systems model is developed to guide the analysis of this problem. The model situates procedural and technical aspects of selection within a broader context including fundamental policy issues of control and equity, social values and structures, and background historical and cultural factors.

Many countries have experienced selection pressures in recent times. These pressures have included increasing unmet demand, increasing diversity of applicants and increasing diversity in secondary education. It has been suggested that only through case studies of particular countries can an understanding of different systems be developed. This study offers such a case study focussing on the Australian state of Queensland. Queensland offers aspects which are typical of Australia as a whole, especially in terms of enrolment trends. Each state and territory in Australia has a different interface between secondary and tertiary education. In Queensland, an important feature of this interface was the abolition of university entry examinations in the early 1970s, as a result of the Radford Review, and their replacement by a system of school-based assessment. This innovation is situated within its historical context and analysed as a paradigm shift. Implications are drawn concerning the processes of educational and institutional change.

Technical issues in comparing and aggregating achievement measures are also examined in relation to the type of data provided by school-based assessment in Queensland. The evolution of moderation and scaling of achievement data in Queensland is analysed and a distinction drawn between comparability and equivalence, the former relating to within-subject comparisons, the latter to between-subject comparisons. A taxonomy of different scaling approaches is developed and distinctions among these approaches explored. It is shown that appropriate choice of approach depends on the assumptions and requirements of the context and not just on technical efficiency. A distinction is also drawn between strategies for equitable comparison of achievement information and equitable strategies for making selection decisions.

A major review of tertiary selection procedures, the Viviani Review, occurred in Queensland in 1990. This review is analysed in detail in terms of its processes, recommendations and implementation. It is shown how this review consolidated the system of school-based assessment and represented a paradigm shift concerning both achievement information and selection strategies. Possibilities for future development inherent in the new paradigm are discussed.

The analyses of both the Radford Review and the Viviani Review illustrate the general systems model by showing how tertiary selection is a complex issue in which procedural and technical issues need to be situated within the broader context. Four themes emerge from the analysis of the Radford Review and are evident in the Viviani  Review: the trend towards democratisation of educational decision processes; the trend towards greater openness, diversity and choice; the tension between local and central control of assessment decisions; and the tension between evolution (gradual change) and revolution (paradigm change).

Criteria for evaluating selection systems are identified and applied to the Queensland system, resulting in conclusions about its degree of success. From the case study, general issues of significance for all tertiary selection systems are identified and discussed: the changing demography of secondary and tertiary education; reforms in senior secondary school curriculum and assessment; the issue of control (responsibility and accountability); the issue of equity (access and comparability); the choice and combination of information in selection decisions; and alternative views of the admissions process. Conclusions are also drawn about the management of change and the management of stability. Finally, it is concluded that all evaluations and analyses of selection systems need to adopt a systems approach in which the complex interactions among various factors are taken into consideration.
Keyword Universities and colleges -- Queensland -- Entrance requirements
Universities and colleges -- Queensland -- Admission
Viviani, Nancy, 1940-. Review of tertiary entrance in Queensland 1990
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