‘Lottery’ system would improve access

A lottery system would help poorer children access better education

Collaborative research by the University of Cambridge, the University of Bristol and the Institute of Fiscal Studies has suggested that a lottery system of admissions could make the intake of Britain’s leading schools and universities fairer.

The research was based on the Millennium Cohort Study, which follows the lives of 19,000 children born in the United Kingdom in between 2000 and 2001.

You can read the whole article here:



6 Responses

  1. Conall,

    Whilst it’s clearly the case that within a given locality there will be good schools and bad schools and property prices will go up around the good schools, doesn’t the following make you a tad suspicious about the direction of causality?

    “Surrey sent almost as many young people to study at Oxbridge as Wales and north-east England.”

    Or is the suggestion that affluent parents choose to live in Surrey on account of the quality of the schools?


  2. I posted this article mainly for its pro-lottery headline! Simon Burgess of the CMPO, Bristol does great research on school admissions, and is appropriately sceptical about admissions lotteries solving all problems of inequality.

    But lottery admission (on those with adequate prior qualifications) would be a very good start!


  3. Agreed. There are clearly many other factors that influence achievement/qualifications other than the quality of the schools. I’m also worried that an overriding commitment to social justice may counteract natural justice (the correspondence between effort/talent and achievement), especially in a globalised world where not all cultures/polities are preoccupied with the “57 varieties of luck egalitarianism” (Walrdon, 2013).


  4. The article does not link to the actual study. I did a search, and found the following link:


    This piece also mentions lotteries as a way to be fair to disadvantaged students, but it contains a link to only one academic study, and that study does not mention lotteries at all. Is there another academic paper that makes the case for lotteries, or is that just something they’re talking up in the media?


  5. The word ‘lottery’ seems to sex-up a dull topic! As for academic papers: A few on the implications of lottery selection (see below), but none (apart from your paper, Peter, and my book) that make the case for lotteries.

    In Sutton Trust Report Feb 2014 Banding and Ballots there are refs to:

    Stasz, C. and van Stolk, C. (2007) The use of lottery systems in school admissions, Working Paper WR-460-SUT, Cambridge, Rand Europe.

    Berry Cullen, J., Jacob, B.A. and Levitt, S. (2006) The effect of school choice on participants: evidence from randomized lotteries, Econometrica, 74, 5, pp1191-1230.

    Allen, R., Burgess, S. and McKenna, L. (2013) The short-run impact of using lotteries for school admissions: early results from Brighton and Hove’s reforms, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 28, 1, 149-166.


  6. Perhaps I should add that in my book ‘Lotteries for Education’ I do NOT advocate lotteries for school places, only for university ones.

    “Every school a good school” should be our motto!


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