Admission and retention systems in higher education


AFTER finishing high school, we, who belong to the pre-K-12 generation, looked forward to enrolling for our first degree — usually a baccalaureate. Unless for whatever good reason, we had to enroll in a certificate (one year) or associate (two-year) program.

We find that higher education institutions (HEI’s) seldom admit college entrants automatically. HEI’s require one to undergo a series of admission examinations. These are usually standard examinations which only professional, that is licensed, psychologists can administer and interpret. These examinations are to determine one’s aptitude, interest and how prepared one is for college. Some HEI’s use these entrance examinations not as bases for admission, but for counselling and guidance purposes while the student studies for the chosen degree program. The DepEd informs us that the K-12 system has a built-in counselling support service starting with Grade 10 to help students choose what track is best for them in senior high and in turn prepare them for the baccalaureate degree most fitted to their aptitude. Accessibility to schools offering their desired track may be overcome by some form of study grants, like DepEd’s voucher system, or from other private or government sources such as from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) especially for senior high going into science, technology, engineering, agriculture/fisheries or mathematics (STEAM).

When an HEI does not use entrance exam results as bases for admission, we say that the HEI has an open admission system. An open admission system may be paired with a selective retention system. Thus, we, who went to college with a selective retention system were likely to have experienced what it was to be assessed of our semestral performance. We would have been under some stress. At the end of the day, we must have kept computing whether our performance in an exam we just had, added more chances for us to qualify being accepted the following semester in the same academic department or whether we would be advised to transfer to a course more fitting to our aptitude than to our special interest,  separating us from soul mates, or worse, whether we would be allowed at all to continue studying in that university. Such a feeling is likely when a university/college employs a letter grade system which translates into a quality point index (QPI) or a quality point average (QPA) that gives the minimum QPI/QPA to qualify enrolling in the next curriculum year, hence retaining our membership as a student in that university.  A selective retention policy usually is tied to such grading systems. The policy on selective retention gives rise to either the system of open admission, selective retention, or selective admission, selective retention.

In the selective admission system, a high school graduate does not automatically qualify for admission in the university. The series of entrance tests for admission determines whether the student would qualify for a place in the university. If the university places a quota on the number of entrants to be admitted for a certain school year, the university would likely even up its cut off score with that obtained by entrants at the tail end of the desired quota. Pros and cons on this method could be matter in future discussions. Besides admission quotas for the total number of entrants are also quotas in specific programs.

The built-in counselling and guidance support service in the K-12 system may prove helpful to both the school and the students: the school can have the students they are prepared to have and the students can have the school appropriate to their chosen track.

Selective retention refers to retaining a student to continue his/her current degree program in the corresponding academic department where the degree program is lodged.

Let’s have a likely example. A student enrolled for a baccalaureate in Mathematics would be under the supervision of the Department of Mathematics. Let us say, the results of the student’s aptitude and other tests show that a course in the social sciences is the most suitable for the student but that the said student choses to enroll in the third suitable course which is biological sciences, since the student would like to proceed to medicine later. The student then enrols in pre-med. At semester’s end, if the student performs poorly, the student is recommended for probation (which often is given only once), then the student is given another semester’s chance. If the student fails probation, the student is advised to transfer to a social sciences course such as education, business or a liberal arts major in history, economics, political science, sociology, etc.  If the student does not prefer any of these major disciplines, the student may decide to drop from the university.

However, where the university has a number of courses to choose from, dropping is almost nil. But like we said earlier in this discussion, the built-in counselling and guidance support of the K-12 system, may likely minimize such a scenario.  In brief, selective retention is selecting the best fit student to be retained in the course or the best fit course for the student. To support this policy, the university ensures that the student is properly counselled and guided in his/her choice of degree program.

About grading systems, there are generally, the letter grade paired with a quality point system, and the percentage system. We hope to write later about these different systems — their merits, demerits and implications to a student’s successful graduation from a baccalaureate.

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Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, PhD, is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is now the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent to her ten years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.


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  1. Gloria M. Kuizon on

    Dr. Tumapon is the most useful col;umnist writing about the technicalities of higher education in Philippine media these days.
    A former schoolteacher, I appreciate what she writes.

  2. PH university must have subject on “How Not to think like a monkey” because once a Filipino student graduates from PH University. The graduate thinks like a monkey. That’s why PH is planet of the apes on earth. Where the greatest monkey rules.

  3. Bakit kaya paurong ang nalalaman ng tao ngayon,
    Noon ang mga bata,kahit sa langit lang nakatingin,sa mga dahon ng puno nakatitig,malabong ilaw ang gamit,walang magulang na katapos sa pag-aaral,upang sila ay tulungan,walang librong mabasa upang umunlad ang kaalaman,pero ito ngayon maayos din naman ang buhay!
    Ngayon ilang taon pa lang ang bata,lahat ng kailangan niyang matutuhan,ay abot kamay niya lang,halos kayang kaya nilang ioperate ang ano mang gadgets,at lahat halos ay kanilang napapanood na hindi nakita ng mga bata noon!
    Imbes na umiksi ang pag-aaral nila dahil halos alam na nila ang lahat sa munti nilang kaisipan!
    Itoparang wala silang natutunan at kailangan pa ng 2taong guidance para magdesisyon sa sarili nila!
    Saan kaya nagkamali ang tao?
    Siguro sa mga nagtuturo!wala silang natutunan!
    Noon grade 2 parang nakakolehiyo na ang kaisipan!
    sa akin ang k-12 ay para lang sa maykaya!