The system isn’t the problem

From the BBC website’s article on this year’s A-level results (yes, I know – we’re always first with the news here):

Twin sisters Tania and Mahua Bhaduri from West Malling, Kent, both got five grade As. But unlike her sister, Tania has not got a university place.

Their father, Dr Bim Bhaduri, said his daughter Tania… had been rejected from universities including Oxford, Bristol and Sheffield.
But Mahua, who studied almost the same A-levels as her sister at state foundation school Tonbridge Grammar for Girls – but took geography instead of psychology, has earned a place at Imperial College, London.

Dr Bhaduri added: “The system really is a lottery, they can’t differentiate between bright and brighter and this is a problem.

No: this is a sign of the system working admirably. One of your daughters took a subject which is not especially popular or fashionable at a university where it is not a specialist subject (to be honest, I was surprised to discover Imperial even offered geography); the other applied for a subject which is highly fashionable at prestigious institutions where the course is particularly respected.

(and Sheffield, which probably rejected her for also applying to Oxford and Bristol…)

3 thoughts on “The system isn’t the problem

  1. I think the article is talking about the A-levels they took (i.e., one did geography, the other psychology), not what they applied for; indeed, Imperial doesn't seem to offer geography. The article doesn't say what the two women applied for, or where they both applied. Without that, it's basically impossible to tell whether this is or isn't a sensible outcome. As you say, if they applied for different things at different universities, it could be perfectly reasonably that one got a place and the other didn't (the article is an annoying example of the belief that some people are "good students" and others aren't, without specifying what they're supposed to be good at).

  2. Yup, you're right. Doh.

    It reminded me of the whole Laura Spence thing – bright working class girl rejected for medicine at Oxford, subsequently offered a scholarship for biochemistry at [$US Ivy League establishment]. Cue idiot commentators suggesting that this was because Oxford was class-ridden and evil, not because biochemistry is an order of magnitude easier to get into than medicine…

  3. If I were a betting man, then I'd say that Tania probably applied to read medicine. I can't see Sheffield rejecting someone with grades that good otherwise.

    But, as voyou said, it's impossible to tell, which is because the original reporting is wank. Are there really people out there who think that getting onto a medicine course should be as easy as getting into a mathematics course, say? Apparently so…

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