“When the future of your children is played on Russian roulette”

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Clément Armato, UNI National Delegate, student spokesperson and Fiona Idda, UNI National Delegate, UNI-Lycée coordinator

Last Tuesday, 658,000 high school students feverishly awaited the verdict from Parcoursup. After having conscientiously followed all the stages imposed by the platform (formulation of orientation vows, entry of academic records, writing of motivation letters), they had hoped for better than playing their future in the algorithmic lottery.

Lack of transparency leads to disillusionment and frustration.

Immediately, the first known results, the complaints multiplied recalling the many failures that had already known this device last year. The improvements promised by the department are clearly not there. How can a high school student accept without the slightest explanation to be refused in the university of his Academy, finding himself 600th on the waiting list, but accepted 700 km in a university of similar level? To try to accept what appears to be arbitrary, you should at least have elements to understand the selection criteria. But nothing is more opaque than the way the interface makes decisions and influences the orientation of high school students. This lack of transparency is a source of disillusionment and frustration.

Disillusionment, first, for these many high school students, who despite a very good record find themselves waiting or refused in all the faculties where they had applied. Many had looked after their files, completed internships, worked hard to get good grades, and Parcoursup’s results fell like a ukase on which their plans for further study broke.

It is absolutely not the question of selection that should be questioned! This is necessary to find quality higher education. It is also popular with students since nearly 60% of candidates’ wishes are expressed in selective courses!

It is above all a problem of transparency and method. Parcoursup had been set up to fight the scandal – long denounced by UNI – of the draw which allowed universities to leave it to chance to select their future students. However, the testimony of many high school students suggests that for some universities the selection still involves a form of draw, probably more technological, but just as unfair. The principle of Russian roulette, even in version 2.0, remains a disgrace to our higher education system because it denies any form of meritocracy.

Two high school students with similar records may end up 6,000 places short on the call list.

Frustration, then. How can we not understand the bitterness of these high school students coming from the same high school with a similar background and records who nevertheless find themselves with more than 6000 places apart on the call list of certain formations. Frustration that turns to glaring injustice when excellent high school students realize that others, with worse records, pass them by. This is the case, for example, of this high school student from a private establishment in Nancy, who contacted us because, despite a general average of more than 13, she finds herself on the waiting list for a law degree in Nancy , 10,000th on the waiting list at the Sorbonne, but taken at the other end of France to the law faculty of Aix-en-Provence, while a classmate with a little over 10 of average was immediately accepted in law license in Nancy and even in Aix and Assas.

This example, which is unfortunately not isolated, reveals a flaw in the device. Faced with the influx of files, universities are unable to process them properly and individually. They therefore implemented more or less crude algorithms to classify and evaluate the candidates. This, in addition to penalizing deserving high school students, leads to standardizing the profile of candidates. This standardization is just another step on the road to the impoverishment of higher education. And excellence in all of this? It’s been a long time since the ministry put this “concept” on the shelf of reactionary quirks.

By not playing the game of transparency on the real selection criteria retained and thus leaving year after year ever more ubiquitous situations to emerge at the time of the results of admissions in higher education, the ministry has a strong distrust .

The motivation of the pupils is not taken into account in the evaluation of the files.

The conclusions of the Court of Auditors in its report of February 2020, assessing the first years of the implementation of the Student Orientation and Success Law, only confirm the doubts and fears of high school students and their families. The Court noted the lack of transparency, the standardization of records, the increasing automation of the system. She also notes that the motivation of the pupils is not taken into account in the evaluation of the files, and concludes that the performances of Parcoursup are not better than those of the ancient APB system making the orientation process still as deficient , etc.

The government had displayed its willingness to put people back into the university orientation and enrollment system. The reality is quite different, after three years of operation, the files are standardized, the pig is heavier and the bureacratisation reinforced.

This complex and opaque system had, above all, been invented by the government in an attempt to propose a “form of selection” without naming it. He hoped to be cunning and avoid a student sling. In the end, he replaced the principle of fair and transparent selection with an arbitrary algorithm.

As Charles Péguy could have said, we can never know enough all that fear of the word “selection” will have made cowardice to our rulers.

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