Thursday, 11 November 2010

New university admissions process in Hungary?

New government, new legal system. The changes do not leave education and the famous Hungarian university admissions system unaffected. We summarise the relevant points of the Concept of the new Law for Higher Education (in Hungarian) signed by Dr Rózsa Hoffmann, Secretary of State for education.

For undergraduate programmes there are two main changes. Currently there is a flexible (not arbitrary!) number of applications one can submit, where there is a surcharge applied for the 4th and any further application and then a limit-score method, similar to the Gale-Shapley algorithm is used. Under the new system the number of applications will be capped at 5. In addition students not assigned under the matching based on these preferences will be recommended free places in similar programmes. It is not clear what these recommendations will be based on, but it is clear that such offers can be turned down.

Postgraduate admissions are currently run under the same scheme, in fact together with the undergraduate programme. So now, in theory one can apply both to an undergraduate and a graduate programme as well. According the proposal universities will select from the first two applications. It is not yet clear what comes afterwards.

The effects of these changes are clear. By not giving their true preferences students are most likely to end up in second line universities. In Hungary education is very much concentrated to Budapest, and while there are several very good universities in other towns these "rural" universities have difficulties to fill their programmes with (good) students. As an effect more students might "end up" in these rural universities. It may also happen that students who did not get a place in their top 5 choice will get offered a place in such a university (which might be their 6th option, anyway).

The admissions for the masters programmes is probably motivated by the fact that there the admission process includes an oral test. A program with a high number of applicants myght face a tiresome task examining hundreds of students, most of them for nothing since they get their other choices. Looking at the first two applications only gives much less work for them, but it is already somewhat better than taking only the first choices, that is, a plain Boston mechnism.

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