Conall Boyle on university admittance: (3) who gains?

This is the third and last part of this article. The first two parts are 1 and 2.

In a democratic society university admittance policy would be set according to the informed decision of the members of the society – possibly through a representation by an allotted decision-making chamber. The decision makers would have to consider what would be the advantages and disadvantages of possible admittance policies and attempt to design a system that would create maximum benefit for the maximum number of people. (Indeed, in a democratic society, all aspects of university policy, such as the procedure for setting the curriculum, should also be designed so as to maximize the benefit for society as a whole.)

Two effects of the admittance policy that merit consideration are its impact on slot availability and its impact on the ideological stance of the members of the public regarding the benefits of university education. Both of those considerations indicate that a lottery-based admittance policy has clear advantages over the achievement-based policy. While I think that the long term objective for the university system should be to provide quality education to all who seek it, the advantages of the lottery-based admittance system make it both a reasonable system for societies that cannot afford to provide education to all, and make it a good tool for creating a shared interest in reaching this desirable goal.

1. Slot availability

As Conall Boyle emphasizes, the possibility of employing a lottery emerges when a resource is scarce. If the number of applicants to a certain university course is smaller than the available number of slots, then neither a lottery nor any other filtering method is needed. Why, then, are the university slots scarce? Does this scarcity represent the best interests of society? On the face of it, it seems that the natural response to high demand for university slots would be to attempt generate more slots. Would it be difficult to do so?

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