UBC’s Focus On Broad Based Admissions A Step In The Right Direction


The University of British Columbia will not exclusively focus on grades as a basis for admission. Instead all extracurricular activities and experiences of an applicant, especially during the high school years, will also be considered.

By Dr. Bikkar Singh Lalli

Mandated by Provincial University Act, UBC has constructed several senate committees like Admission Committee, Curriculum Committee, Academic Policy Committee, and Budget Committee, to name some. Every committee is entrusted with a specific responsibility. Every year internal policy/curriculum changes are brought forward for the required approval of the senate. Based on specific needs/demands a large number of courses are dropped, added or redesigned. Each Faculty initiates an action, which is forwarded to the concerned committee of the senate for approval. The senate committee can refer the matter back to the Faculty either for clarification or for making some changes.  Based on current research findings or experience, every year the University’s “internal model” undergoes a tremendous change. As a member of the Curriculum Committee, I find, each year, over a hundred courses either being added or dropped; new programs started and a number of old ones remodelled. And as a member of the Admission Committee, I spend a lot of time in studying/understanding various proposals brought to this committee by the University Enrolment Services. Every “change”, after senate’s approval, is included in the UBC’s Website, and the website of the concerned faculty.

Starting from this year, UBC is set to become the first large university in Canada to use broad-based admissions across all faculties. Thus, the university will not exclusively focus on grades as a basis for admission. Instead all extracurricular activities and experiences of an applicant, especially during the high school years, will also be considered. There is another significant change, which was made this year, which will help some students and disappoint some others. Starting from this year the President’s Entrance Scholarship, which was based solely on marks, was abolished. From now on financial needs will also be considered as a factor in determining scholarships/financial awards. However, a number of students, with very high marks, will receive recognition – a “Chancellor Scholar” designation, which will appear on their transcripts.

A large number of students, from Indo-Canadian community, apply for admission to UBC, and some of them aim for entry into the Faculty of Medicine or Dentistry. These faculties have also made some changes in their selection processes. The aspirants for entry to these faculties must look at the following websites: Medicine – http://mdprogram.med.ubc.ca/admissions/evaluation-criteria/ (please see the section on Non-Academic Criteria) and Dentistry – http://www.dentistry.ubc.ca/Education/DMD/AdmissionProcedures.asp . For 288 seats in MD program in UBC, there are usually over 1800 applicants. So it is very important to prepare for these seats keeping in view the faculty’s evaluation criteria which include both academic and non-academic.

For 2012/2013 academic year, every student was supposed to apply online for admission to UBC.  Typically, UBC receives 30,000 applications for admission to undergraduate programs, and less than 6,000 applicants are accepted each year.  Each faculty asks applicants to answer between four and six “personal profile” questions in addition to providing secondary school grades. The university is hoping it will end up attracting more well-rounded applicants, ones whose “marks may not be off the charts but who possess other attributes that portend important qualities such as leadership”.

There are individuals who believe that Asian students are largely responsible for driving up the GPA admission bar at UBC. “Their strong presence on campus has also helped perpetuate what many insist is a false stereotype – that Asian students (and their parents) are focused on success and grades to the exclusion of everything else.” There is some validity in this perception; however, the student senators from the visible minorities did not raise any objections to the new admission system, the system which is also being used by Ivy League schools.  The possibility of subjectivity does exist in the Faculty of Medicine’s Multiple Mini-Interview process, and I was the only one who opposed this system in the senate meeting. The interview is an important component of the admission process. The Multiple Mini-Interview (MMI) model which exposes an applicant to approximately 10 interviewers and requires that he/she deal with a carefully pre-selected scenario/situation within a determined timeframe. The interviewers typically consist of a combination of academics, clinicians, community representatives and UBC 3rd or 4th year medical students, representing diverse geographic areas of British Columbia.

For the last 14 years, I am urging the Indo-Canadian parents to encourage and help their children in developing social skills, communication skills and leadership qualities. Let the children choose their own area of interest to specialize in, and do not ever pressure them to proceed in a direction which you want them to go. Admittedly, higher education is an instrument of power, particularly in current conditions in which knowledge has emerged as a crucial factor of unequal relationship. The Indo-Canadian community must start thinking seriously about the future of the children and its own social standing. Thus, it is incumbent on the whole community to make a collective and concerted effort to prepare the children for facing tough realities of life in knowledge-based economies. “Be careful to leave your children well instructed rather than rich, for the hopes of the instructed are better than the wealth of the ignorant” (Epictetus). Knowledge is the key success factor for enabling our community to adjust to the changing economic profile, and finding gainful employment in the new, emerging economic sectors.