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UBC Theses and Dissertations

In pursuit of the “right” student : a case study in assessing the effectiveness of enrolment management in shaping a first-year class Arida, Andrew


This study assesses the impact of undergraduate admission decision-making models on enrolment at a selective Canadian university. A quasi-experimental methodology was employed to describe actual academic and engagement outcomes of students identified by different admission decision-making models at the University of British Columbia (UBC), located in Vancouver, Canada. Academic outcomes were defined by first-year grades and retention to second year; engagement outcomes were defined by nine factors that emerged from a principal component analysis of student responses to two survey instruments assessing students’ actual and intended behaviours prior to and after arrival at UBC. The study concludes that although choice of admission-making decision model does have an impact on shaping a first-year class, the effect is small. A hypothetical admission decision-making model that considers geographic location of the applicant in addition to academic ability (in order to increase national representation) was found to enroll a UBC class with lower academic ability, an equal chance of retention to second year, and a greater intention to engage in career-related enriched educational experiences. An actual admission decision-making model that considers the personal characteristics of applicants in addition to academic merit (as opposed to a grades-only model) was found to enroll a class with somewhat lower academic ability, the same chance of retention to second year, minimal differences in engagement prior to attending UBC, no difference in their intention to engage in enriched educational opportunities, a greater likelihood of engaging with peers, but an overall lower level of engagement with their schoolwork. Resource dependency theory was employed to discuss how an institution’s ability to exert influence over its enrolment (i.e., its environment) is affected by the factor of applicant demand for the supply of first-year seats. The discussion also draws upon social imaginary theory to describe how admission decision-making models based upon institution needs (as opposed to applicant merit) conflict with our sense of social justice. While the results suggest that students choose institutions more so than institutions choose students, the study discusses the benefits to both the institution and society when universities effectively manage enrolment through diverse admission decision-making criteria.

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