A SCHOOL is only as good as its students. This is the reason UST is seeking to improve its student selectivity despite the demand for more enrollment slots.

Judging by the Asiaweek survey of Asia’s best universities last year, UST is improving its student selectivity. Although it ranked 74th out of 77 participating schools, with an overall score of 41.69 percent, it obtained a 20.96 percent rating in student selectivity, landing 48th place. Among the top four Philippine universities, UST was second in student selectivity.

Student selectivity is based on the number of first-year students accepted compared with the total number of applicants, the number of enrollees compared with the number of accepted students, and median score of first-year students in the national or university entrance test.

According to Fr. Dionisio Cabezon, O.P., Director of Guidance and Testing Center, UST entertains 40,000 applicants a year, but admits only 7,000 to 8,000 students.

He added that the criteria used in the Asiaweek survey were general and might not always apply to all. Yet, other schools have the edge against Philippine universities because of their countries’ economic standing.

“Their (other countries) economy is relatively higher than ours. They maintain high standard of education, (which is more) superior than here,” Cabezon said.

Admission policies

Despite UST’s improved student selectivity rating, some people have doubts about the quality of the tests administered on applicants.

Prof. Narita Ellar, psychologist and head of the Social Sciences Department, defends the validity and reliability of the entrance exams conducted by the testing center.

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The center distributes application forms in September for the entrance exams scheduled from November to January. Results are usually released during the first week of March.

The entrance examination undergoes item analysis for every college or faculty. It is basically an achievement test based on the training or preparation that applicants obtained in high school, Fr. Cabezon said.

He explained that the testing center categorized the items under easy, average, and difficult. The length and the available time for placing items in the test were also considered.

Problems may happen in the college or faculty which screens students through interview, said Fr. Cabezon.

“The admissions committee does not see much relevance in conducting interviews,” he said, since the purpose of the interview is “not really important.”

This year, however, the committee tried to dissuade the colleges from holding interviews. Many deans complied but some still pushed through with it, like the College of Science and the Faculty of Pharmacy.

The colleges selected applicants with very high scores and rejected a number of hopefuls in the interview. Some applicants were placed in the waiting list.

Although UST doesn’t lack qualified students, the slow process of admission may result in student scarcity.

“Students cannot wait that long. Although they wanted to enrol in UST, they end up looking for other schools,” Fr. Cabezon said.

Fr. Cabezon pointed that the schedule for interview is not convenient for the students because it is set in March, when applicants are busy with their graduation.

“We (admissions committee) encourage the colleges, except in Nursing and College of Physical Therapy, to eliminate the interview from their admission system. But we do not have that much power, this (is) a democratic community and we cannot deprive the deans that right (to select students),” he explained.

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In addition, Fr. Cabezon said some deans admit students recommended by friends or insiders from the University even if they did not meet the cut-off score.

“Sometimes they (students) know too many people who can fix things for them,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prof. Priscilla Torres, assistant dean of the Faculty of Pharmacy, said they still conduct interviews as part of their admission policies.

She added that the faculty wants to know if the student is serious about the course because some students “tend to enroll in a certain course for the sake of being admitted to the University, but would later transfer to another course after a year.”

Torres added their faculty adopted a well-organized system that minimized delays. But for this year, she explained that they scheduled the interview late because of several activities in the second semester.

“But we have plans to change this (because) that could be a factor for them (applicants) to look for other schools,” she said.

On the other hand, the Faculty of Arts and Letters (AB) scrapped the interview, according to Prof. Josephine Aguilar, faculty secretary.

“Here in AB, when you say interview, it’s not exactly an interview because we don’t have any criterion,” she clarified. She said they only check the student’s conduct and if he or she had back subjects during the summer.

Aguilar admitted that there were times when the faculty accepted students who were recommended by someone from the University. But she pointed out those admitted had scores that were not distant from the cut-off.

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Before admission, they make sure that the applicants have satisfactory credentials, Prof. Aguilar added.

Proposals

Fr. Cabezon thinks that eliminating the interview will somehow speed up the admission process of colleges and faculties.

“The admissions process will be smoother or effectively conducted if the admissions committee will have more control (over admission policies) rather than leaving everything to the deans,” he said.

Colleges and faculties, on the other hand, conduct interviews for their own purposes. According to Prof. Torres, they conduct interviews to “gauge” the students’ capability and intention to take up the course.

However, Fr. Cabezon said it would be better if the colleges would have representatives in the admissions committee. He said deans should represent their colleges in the committee through rotations.

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