Admissions to Graduate Studies: Selection Methods for Life and Natural Sciences Masters’ Programs at a European Research University

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)

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The last decades have seen a number of developments highlighting the need for evidence-based selection methods for admissions to research masters’ programs. Among them are: (1) a switch from an open admissions model and the weighted lottery approach to selective admissions, (2) yearly increasing numbers of (inter)national applicants, (3) rising diversification of application files and a commitment of universities to the diversity mission, and (4) increasing societal expectations for fair, objective, inclusive, and transparent admissions. Accordingly, among the stakeholders (applicants, admissions committee, policy makers) calls for such an evidence base have grown louder. This dissertation seeks to enlarge the evidence base which is sought to (a) to contribute to the research field of student selection and (b) to help admissions committees to choose evidence-based selection methods for their selection decisions.
In doing so, this dissertation aims to evaluate available selection methods in regard to their validity, acceptability by stakeholders, procedural issues, and transparency. As part of this dissertation, a number of selection methods (such as undergraduate grade point average, grade for bachelor’s thesis, field of studies, Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General) have been assessed for their predictive validity. Additionally, a review has been conducted evaluating a wide range of selection methods used in STEM-related disciplines. Based on this dissertation, a number of recommendations are formulated. First, the use of selection methods that lack predictive validity should be discontinued. Second, evidence-based selection methods should constitute an important part of a sound admissions process. Finally, researchers and admissions practitioners alike should perhaps remain open to alternative ways of admissions rather than selective admissions in their current form. Admissions practitioners may refer to the section titled “Practical contributions/ implications for applicants & practitioners” of Chapter 6 of this doctoral dissertation to gain insights, guidelines, and possibly inspiration for their daily work.
At the end of this doctoral dissertation, other important themes that surround the topic of selective admissions are described. These themes are as follows: (1) merit and diversity; (2) the effects of selection at secondary school on student diversity in higher education; (3) the pros and cons of self-selection; (4) innovative approaches to student selection such as modular approach, curriculum sampling or trial-studying, signal detection theory, and constrained optimization; (5) alternative model of selective admissions: combining selective admissions with lottery in the ex aequo group (“lottery in the middle”) or with “lottery of the qualified”.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht
  • van Rijen, HVM, Primary supervisor
  • van der Wende, Marijk, Supervisor
  • Dilaver, G, Co-supervisor
Award date15 Nov 2022
Print ISBNs978-94-6458-681-7
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2022


  • admissions
  • life sciences
  • natural sciences
  • graduate studies
  • student selection
  • selective admissions
  • selection methods
  • higher education
  • research masters' programs
  • study success


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