17 Feb 2016

A critical look at LUC's selection of students

Martijn writes*

A Leiden University College Student (LUC) is highly motivated, ambitious and very talented.

At least, that is what the official website implies. This statement is defended by the fact that the selection process of the college is intense in comparison with other Dutch universities. It appears, however, that this is not the only criterion on which LUC is selecting. The selection process seems to accept a higher rate of progressive, liberal, and like it or not, (middle) left wing students rather than more conservative right-winged ones. In this blog I will argue two things, the first being that LUC’s selection process is a matching market instead of a price market, building on to that; matching markets are more prone to market failures.

Most markets balance their demand and supply with the price mechanism. Take the market for roses on Valentines Day. Demand shoots up, which increases the price and hence supply, creating a new market balance. Some markets however, do not have price as a balancing factor, these are known as “matching markets”. Two examples of matching markets are the market for finding a job and the market for finding a partner.

The example we are interested in is the selection process of LUC. Different potential students, as well as, universities have their unique weaknesses and strengths meaning trade-offs are needed to choose between them. Furthermore, both the university and potential student need to be eager for the match to happen. In a price market, the supplier does not show interest in who buys their product. This makes the matching market a much more complicated one being more reliant on information.

Information about LUC can be considered first-rate, with open days, student for a day experiences and interviews. Therefore we can assume that the prospective student is very aware of the student demographic. Conservative potential students are probably going to feel that this might not be the place for them. One could assume too that information about the student is sound with a selection process that involves sending a CV, motivation letter and study results. Lack of information is therefore not the cause for the lack of political diversity. Maybe instead, students who lean to the political right do not endeavour in voluntarily work or maybe there is slight bias in the interview part of the selection process. This would require much more in-depth research then a simple blog post.

What I have done, is a quick poll on the second floor. From this came out that 20 out of the 30 students asked considered themselves to be on the (middle) left spectrum while only 4 said that they were on the (middle) right spectrum. Although this does not fully prove anything, it does give an indication of the political demographics of LUC. What further came out of the poll was that 27 of the addressed would initially judge a right-winged student more badly relative to the middle and left-winged students. A university with ambitious and very talented students should also be one of political diverseness. From an economic standpoint, this means that there is something going wrong with the fairness of the selection market. Either information between the different parties is not good enough, which seems unlikely, or we are unknowingly biased in the selection process, which would call for revision and regulation, as acceptance of political diverseness is a must for the future ‘global citizens’.

Bottom Line Money on its own is never biased, matching markets may very well be. With the selection process of LUC being a matching market we should be more aware of the potential bias in order to ensure the college will remain its political diversity.
* Please comment on these posts from my microeconomics students, to help them with unclear analysis, other perspectives, data sources, etc.