Use of the personal statement for undergraduate law admissions

The request was partially successful.

Dear University of Bristol,

I would like to request the following data about the admissions process for all of your undergraduate law degrees.

1. Whether a candidate's personal statement (which is submitted through UCAS) is considered by the admissions team when considering whether to give that candidate an offer;

If the personal statement is assessed by the admissions team:
2. A list of the marking criteria/factors that are considered by the admissions team when assessing the candidate's personal statement;
3. Whether a candidate's personal statement is given a score or grade of any kind;
4. The weighting attached to the aforementioned score or grade (e.g. 20%);
5. A list of personal statement scores given to offer holders who had applied for undergraduate study in law at your university in the 2018/2019 admissions cycle (and thus received offers for either 2019 direct entry or 2020 deferred entry).

Yours faithfully,

Samira El Amein

University of Bristol FOI mailbox, University of Bristol

Thank you for your e-mail.  The University will endeavour to respond to
your request under the Freedom of Information Act within 20 working days.

However, we are currently receiving a high volume of requests, and we
would be grateful if you could bear with us if, on occasion, we are unable
to respond within the statutory time-frame. We apologise for any
inconvenience that this may cause.

We may need to ask you certain questions to clarify your request to ensure
we fully understand what information is being requested. If so, the 20
working day deadline will be calculated once we have received such
clarification. 

 

The University's A-Z index can help in locating information that is
publicly available on the University's
website: [1]http://www.bristol.ac.uk/index/

 

Our Publication Scheme is available
at: [2]http://www.bristol.ac.uk/media-library/s...

 

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) annually publish certain
data about students and higher education: [3]https://www.hesa.ac.uk/.
Bespoke datasets can be requested from
Jisc: [4]https://www.jisc.ac.uk/tailored-datasets.

 

For further information about the University's FOI procedure, please
see: [5]http://www.bristol.ac.uk/secretary/foi/

References

Visible links
1. http://www.bristol.ac.uk/index/
2. http://www.bristol.ac.uk/media-library/s...
3. https://www.hesa.ac.uk/
4. https://www.jisc.ac.uk/tailored-datasets
5. http://www.bristol.ac.uk/secretary/foi/

University of Bristol FOI mailbox, University of Bristol

Dear Miss El Amein

 

Freedom of Information Request (our reference FOI19-566)

 

We refer to your Freedom of Information request dated 29^th November. We
apologise for the delay in responding to your request. We have a backlog
of requests that we are working through as quickly as we can. You
requested the following information:

 

“I would like to request the following data about the admissions process
for all of your undergraduate law degrees

1. Whether a candidate's personal statement (which is submitted through
UCAS) is considered by the admissions team when considering whether to
give that candidate an offer;

If the personal statement is assessed by the admissions team:
2. A list of the marking criteria/factors that are considered by the
admissions team when assessing the candidate's personal statement;
3. Whether a candidate's personal statement is given a score or grade of
any kind;
4. The weighting attached to the aforementioned score or grade (e.g. 20%);
5. A list of personal statement scores given to offer holders who had
applied for undergraduate study in law at your university in the 2018/2019
admissions cycle (and thus received offers for either 2019 direct entry or
2020 deferred entry).]”

 

University’s Response

 

Further to Section 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the “Act”) we
confirm that the information requested is partially held by the University
of Bristol (the “University”).

 

The following is an extract taken from the [1]admissions statement for
law:

“We may refer to the personal statement and reference to differentiate
between applicants with similar academic profiles. In these cases, we use
the following criteria:

• Interest in and commitment to Law

• Evidence of analytical thinking, communication skills and independent
thinking

• Evidence of ability to face challenges, academic stamina and commitment
to tasks”

Further information can be found in the admissions statement.

 

The marking criteria is considered exempt from disclosure under section
36(2)(c) of the Act:

 

“Information to which this section applies is exempt information if, in
the reasonable opinion of a qualified person, disclosure of the
information under this Act would otherwise prejudice, or would be likely
to prejudice, the effective conduct of public affairs.”

 

The disclosure of the marking criteria into the public domain would be
likely to prejudice the effective conduct of the University’s public
affairs, namely its duty to use a fair and equitable process to select the
most suitable candidates for its courses. Disclosure of the marking
criteria would undermine the admissions process, by giving applicants an
opportunity to use the criteria as a ‘tick list’ with which they seek to
comply when completing their personal statement. This could leave the
University in a position where it needed to differentiate between equally
capable candidates on some other undeclared basis.

 

Public interest considerations

 

We are required to consider the public interest in disclosure of the
information when applying this exemption. There is a public interest in
disclosure, to demonstrate that the University’s admissions procedure is
clear and transparent, so applicants (and the public) can be assured that
the selection process is consistent and fair and there can be no
accusation of bias. The integrity of admissions procedures is essential
for all higher education institutions, to ensure that the public trusts
them to select the most suitable applicants, and thus make effective use
of public funds and students’ tuition fees.   

 

However, there is also a public interest in withholding the marking
criteria from disclosure, to ensure a level playing field for all
applicants so that the University may identify the candidates most
suitable for its courses. This public interest is increased when the
course relates to a vocation such as Law where, with the welfare of
individuals at stake, it is in the public interest that the University
selects only the candidates most suitable for the study and practice of
law.

 

If disclosed, applicants who were to find and use the marking criteria
when preparing their application would potentially gain an unfair
advantage over other applicants. That could lead to the University
accepting applicants who have closely followed the criteria but who are
not as suitable for the programme as others. Equally, the University might
find itself having to create new application processes or criteria in
order to level the playing field again and differentiate between large
numbers of apparently suitable candidates.

 

As the wording of the exemption in section 36(2)(c) of Act states, it may
only be applied if such prejudice would, or would be likely to, occur in
the “reasonable opinion of a qualified person”. The qualified person for
universities is the Vice-Chancellor (or equivalent) and our
Vice-Chancellor has approved the application of this exemption having
considered the relevant issues.

 

Internal Review Procedure

 

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, then you have a
right under Section 50 of the Act to request an internal review.  All such
requests must be sent to us within 40 days, and must clearly state our
reference number (at the top of this email) and your reason for requesting
an internal review.  We will respond to your request for an internal
review within 20 working days of receipt.

 

 

 

Internal Review Procedure

 

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, then you have a
right under Section 50 of the Act to request an internal review.  All such
requests must be sent to us within 40 days, and must clearly state our
reference number (at the top of this email) and your reason for requesting
an internal review.  We will respond to your request for an internal
review within 20 working days of receipt.

 

Your request for an internal review should be sent to:

 

Director of Legal Services

Secretary’s Office

University of Bristol

Senate House

Tyndall Avenue

Bristol

BS8 1TH

 

Or you can email your request to [University of Bristol request email],
quoting your FOI reference number at the head of this letter.

 

Information Commissioners Office

 

Should you remain dissatisfied with the final outcome of the internal
review then you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner (the
“ICO”) for an independent review.  The ICO is the Government’s Independent
Body responsible for overseeing the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the
Data Protection Act 2018 and The Environmental Information Regulations
2004.

 

Please note the ICO will only review cases that have exhausted the
University’s internal review procedure. All correspondence to the ICO must
quote the University’s reference number and your reasons for your appeal. 
The ICO’s contact details are as follows:

 

The Information Commissioners Office

Wycliffe House

Water Lane

Wilmslow

Cheshire

SK9 5AF

 

More information can be found at the ICO’s website
at [2]http://www.ico.org.uk

 

Kind Regards

 

Freedom of Information Team

University of Bristol

 

 

 

References

Visible links
1. http://www.bristol.ac.uk/study/media/und...
2. http://www.ico.org.uk/