To the author’s knowledge, this is the first study to review the entry selection criteria for MPH in the United Kingdom. Student selection is an important part of SOPH activities and all course directors interviewed felt that their selection process was adequate, since they had achieved good results over the years. There are a few differences in the student selection process used by SOPH in the United Kingdom, with directors playing different roles in the admissions process. These roles range from deciding and implementing the admissions criteria to functioning in a supervisory or supporting capacity for the admissions board. In some cases, the entire admission process is handled by an external agency. However, the activities of this agency are audited for quality by the course director.
The traditional tools like the academic transcript, personal statement and reference letters still play an important part in student selection. Although there has been little research done by UK SOPH to validate these tools, directors generally agreed that the academic transcript and personal statement were among the most important criteria for student select. A good academic transcript which records previous academic performance was described as essential and could predict anecdotally whether the candidate can cope with the demands of a Masters Degree programme. The personal statement was described as equally important, as it reveals the student’s desires and aspiration, indicates motivation and reflects evidence of experience in public health. These opinions were justified based on the evidence of the effectiveness of these tools found in the literature. However, the issues surrounding the quality of the academic transcripts of different universities and the risk of the “copy and paste” personal statement will be difficult to address. These lapses present a very big challenge to admissions panel as they try to ensure they select students who will perform well on the course, given the right learning conditions.
There was a general low opinion of the usefulness of reference letters, which was similar to the findings of previous research. The reference letter is too subjective and very easy to manipulate and it is almost always biased to the positive attributes of the candidate. However, reference letters serve the useful function of identifying the applicant and as such remain an indispensable tool for student selection. A standardized reference letter that request for the weaknesses of applicants, in addition to their positive attributes may provide a way of reducing the bias in reference letters.
An interesting finding was the relatively low utilization of interviews in the selection of students, despite it role in undergraduate medical student selection and in other countries*. However, based on the evidence of studies questioning its validity and reliability, and the difficulties associated with organizing such selection interviews especially for...