Possible reintroduction of lottery system no problem for W&I

“In the end it’s all the same to us,” says Johan Lukkien, dean of the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science (W&I), when asked whether it would be a problem for him should admission to programs with a ceiling on intake numbers be once again determined through lottery in the future. At TU/e, Computer Science & Engineering is one of these Bachelor’s programs. Last week, a majority in the House of Representatives voted in favor of lifting the ban on the lottery system.

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At this point, it’s not certain whether lottery will once again become the standard selection procedure for programs with a ceiling on student intake numbers. However, a first step towards realizing this was taken in the House of Representatives last week. A majority in the House voted in favor of a motion that calls on the cabinet to lift the ban on the lottery system. Minister of Education, Culture and Science Ingrid van Engelshoven is going to get started on a proposal in which she will once again have to include lottery as a possible selection procedure.

Dean Johan Lukkien says that the selection procedure at the Bachelor’s program Computer Science & Engineering, which prospective students needed to pass in recent years in order to be admitted, had little impact on the quality of the candidates who were eventually allowed to start with the program.

By mid-January of this year, the number of advance registrations at this program was at 1,044, which makes it the program at TU/e with the highest number of advance registrations. The intake limit for the next academic year is set at 325 first-year students, which means that a large number of these students will not be admitted at first instance after decentralized testing. Lukkien: “I think that a lottery system would be easier for us. We noticed that selection based on quality or motivation of first-year Bachelor’s students has no serious impact. The study results haven’t become significantly better or worse since we implemented the decentralized selection test. We do however have more international students, but we can’t say whether that’s the result of selection, or simply a general trend.”

Commercial assistance

According to Lukkien, one of the disadvantages of the current selection procedure is the emergence of several commercial companies that train students for their intake interviews and help them write their letters of motivation. “These two elements, however, aren’t part of our selection procedure. It’s true that we ask students to write a letter in which they reflect on their study choice and their preparation for it, but in the end it’s not the decisive factor. We don’t see any perfectly written letters, and none of the students tell us they called in the help of commercial companies.”

The advantage of the current selection procedure, Lukkien says, is that students who aren’t serious are taken out of the process at an early stage. “That won’t be the case with a lottery system; in that case we’ll admit a large number of students who will eventually decide not to go through with it after all. Students get offered a place in a program via Studielink, which they will have to accept within two weeks. If they don’t, that place will be offered to the next person on the list. International students might accept a place and then not finish the enrollment procedure after all. These candidates will be eliminated sooner with the current procedure.”

Study-choice check

Lukkien also notices that candidates who get offered a place in a program in the second instance are slightly less inclined to accept than students who were placed immediately, although the difference isn’t significant, the dean says. The intake limit for Computer Science & Engineering was at 275 students this academic year, with over 700 advance registrations at the start of 2019. In the end, 260 first-year students started with the program.

Lukkien says that students also indicate that they think of the selection process as a study-choice check and a study orientation. “If we would no longer have a selection procedure in the future, we would still need to set up that choice and orientation process. That’s not such an effort in itself, but it might place an extra burden on our staff members.”

When did universities still use the lottery system?

Up until 2000, students were selected for programs with a ceiling on student intake numbers exclusively by means of a lottery. It was a weighed lottery: high grades enhanced the chance of admission. After a transition period during which universities were allowed to decide for themselves whether they wanted to select or not, the lottery system was abolished in 2017.

TU/e currently has three programs for which a ceiling on intake numbers will apply in the academic year 2020-2021:Computer Science & Engineering, Architecture, Building and Planning, and Industrial Design. In the academic year 2018-2019, TU/e introduced a ceiling on intake numbers for the first time for four Bachelor’s programs, due to the strong increase in intake numbers. This concerned the following programs at the time: Industrial Design, Biomedical Engineering, Industrial Engineering and Computer Science and Engineering. A year later, Architecture, Building and Planning and Mechanical Engineering were added to that list. However, the ceiling on student intake numbers no longer applies for next academic year at the latter Bachelor’s program, as well as at Biomedical Engineering and Industrial Engineering.

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