Finnish polytechnics organised an Internet-based pre-selection examination for the social services, health and sports fields in spring 2016. According to complaints, the applicants who cannot afford an own computer and Internet connection were at a disadvantaged position. In addition, someone else taking the examination on behalf of the applicant was considered possible.
Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja acquired accounts from all of the 19 polytechnics, that participated in the pre-selection examination, and from the Ministry of Education and Culture.
Was the applicants' equality in danger of being violated?
Only primary education is completely free. However, applying to a polytechnic may cause expenses for the applicants because of acquiring entrance examination materials or a computer, travelling to the examination location or booking accommodation, for example.
The Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman stated, that it was possible to attend the examination on a library's computer in addition to one's own device. The pre-selection examination had been realised technically such that the computer's performance did not affect taking the examination. Therefore, there was no reason to suspect that there would not have been an equal opportunity for everyone to attend the electronic pre-selection examination.
The facts that the pre-selection examination could be taken anywhere regardless of the applicant's place of residence, and that taking the examination did not cause travelling expenses, were considered positive. The content of the pre-selection examination had been prepared to take the different educational backgrounds and prior educational success of applicants with secondary education into account.
Possibilities for abuse?
The electronic pre-selection examination was attended in unsupervised conditions. This enabled someone else to take the examination on behalf of the of the applicant. However, the final student admission did not take the pre-selection examination results into account.
The Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman found the situation problematic, since it could have been possible to gain entrance to the actual entrance examination deceitfully. If an insincere applicant would have performed successfully in the actual entrance examination, he or she could have gained admission by principally dishonest means. If the applicant would not have gained admission, he or she could have prevented an honest pre-selection examination participant from entering the actual entrance examination.
Isolated instances of deceit were not discovered in the accounts. However, the Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman states that the entrance examination practices should strive for minimising the risk of abuse that would violate the applicants' legal protection. If the use of the electronic pre-selection examination is continued, its functionality must be constantly monitored, and improvement measures must be taken when necessary.
The full text of Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja's decision 1211/4/16 was published (in finnish) on the Parliamentary Ombudsman's website at http://www.oikeusasiamies.fi/.
Further information is available from Referendary Counsellor Mikko Sarja, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3364.