Admissions interview policy

Purpose

This policy sets out the principles and procedures for the management of applicant interviews. It is intended to help both University staff and potential students understand the framework in which interviews are conducted at Exeter. We want to ensure that our admissions process is fair and transparent.

Interviews can be stressful for applicants and this policy aims to ensure that the experience is professional and welcoming, giving the applicant the opportunity to demonstrate potential.

Scope

This policy applies to all interviews conducted to assess the suitability of applicants for entry to University of Exeter programmes. Interviews may result in a formal offer or an unsuccessful decision on an application. Interviews may also be used in relation to University-managed financial support, eg studentships or scholarships.

We define an interview as any discussion, the primary purpose of which is to determine the academic suitability of an applicant prior to an offer or their academic quality in relation to an award such as a scholarship. A discussion to explore the suitability of a course or its content is not an interview.

Part of the normal application process for a research programme could include a discussion with a prospective student about their research proposal and related topics such as proposed research methodologies and the research interests of the department/team. Given the unique nature of each MPhil/PhD application, such discussions are extremely valuable for both the applicant and institution. They help to identify if a suitable academic supervisor is available and whether appropriate research facilities can be provided. They do not, however, constitute an ‘interview’ unless the invitation explicitly says so, for example in the event of a competitive selection process to fill a funded project.

Interviews should not be confused with any other informal meetings, either on or off campus, with University staff where prospective applicants can discuss a possible or current application, or other matters such as the University’s programmes, entry requirements and their suitability for selected programmes. These are not considered interviews in the context of this policy.

Any invitation to or booking for an interview should make clear that the discussion is part of a formal selection process.

Staff will ensure that selection procedures for interviewing prospective students are consistent with this policy.

Why do we interview?

For the majority of programmes, we do not require an interview as part of our admissions process.

Criteria for shortlisting are based on academic merit, references and evidence of your motivation which might be demonstrated through your personal statement, research proposal or covering letter depending on your level of study.

However, in some cases the University will interview if it is felt that this is the best method of identifying potential for study or for an award, and/or where there is a relevant legal/regulatory requirement or guideline.

No offer for BMBS Medicine, BSc Medical Imaging, Nursing or MSci Applied Psychology (Clinical), Initial Teacher Training (PGCE) will be made unless an applicant has attended an interview.

Training

Those involved in drawing up interview criteria or assessing candidates will have had appropriate interview and equality and diversity training.

Selection criteria

Appropriate selection criteria and assessment methods should be documented and agreed in advance of all interview processes. Criteria and assessment methods used should be consistent with the University’s Admissions Policy.

Scheduling

Interviews should be scheduled as flexibly as possible, ideally with alternative dates where many candidates are being considered. This should include, where possible, publishing in advance the likely interview dates and providing adequate notice (usually at least two weeks and ideally more).

In some instances, especially in the case of postgraduate research applications, we can only state the week and not the exact date in advertisements of projects. Candidates are informed approximately a week in advance for some studentship schemes. 

If the University cancels or postpones an interview, we will offer a revised interview date.

We may not offer an alternative date if an applicant fails to attend a scheduled appointment without telling us in advance.

Remote interviews

Interviews should be an interactive experience. However, if a face-to-face interview is not possible, the University may conduct telephone, SKYPE or equivalent video call interviews if appropriate (eg for international applicants who may not be able to travel to the campus). In some cases, legal or regulatory requirements may mean this option is not available.

Remote interviews should follow the same principles and guidance as face-to-face interviews.

Candidates who attend a remote interview will need to demonstrate that they are the candidate and that they are not receiving any assistance during the interview, for example by providing a copy of their passport photo page in advance for verification and facilitating a 360 degree view of their location for interview.

Interviewing applicants aged under 18

If a candidate will be under 18 years of age at the time of interview, the arrangements should include ensuring that emergency contact details are available. 

Travel and accommodation costs

The University does not routinely refund the costs applicants may incur when travelling to an interview. If refunds are available this will be made clear.

Prior to the interview

We publish a detailed Admissions Policy for our undergraduate Medicine and Nursing programmes and this sets out our approach to interviews in that context. For other interviews, the processes, criteria and nature of assessment should be made available to all applicants.

Arrangements for the interview

Invitations should provide further details about the expected interview format and guidance of when and where to report. Applicants may contact the Admissions Office or relevant team with any concerns or questions in advance of the interview.

Applicants will be encouraged to provide details prior to the interview of any medical, special or cultural needs that should be taken into consideration to allow for any reasonable adjustments to be made.

Interviews should normally be conducted by a minimum of two interviewers and, where possible, have an appropriate gender balance. This may not be possible in the context of interviews conducted overseas at agents’ offices or similar and a formal record of these should be kept through contemporary notes. Interviewers should try and ensure that they are not alone with the candidate at any time or conduct the interview in professional staffed office space or suitable international venue. It is essential that at least one member of the ‘interview panel’ has received recruitment and selection training offered by the University.

During the interview

Procedures should be in place to verify your identity for both face-to-face and remote interviews.

Interviewers should avoid over-aggressive questioning or joking familiarity at interviews and should avoid behaviour that might frighten, embarrass or demoralise the interviewee. Interviewers must not express any personal opinions or assumptions and should ensure that all questions are factually based and avoid cultural bias. Notes, including any scoring used, should be taken during the interview.

Interviewers should not enter discussion about the equivalence of qualifications with applicants (queries about the equivalence of such qualifications should be noted and then discussed with the Admissions Office).

Interviewers should not refer to applications made to other Higher Education Institutions,

Any questions should consider cultural differences in the ability of candidates to respond equally.

The interview should not be used to provide the primary evidence of linguistic ability for the purpose of making a programme offer but may be used to provide context for admissions decisions.

The interviews and processes must be consistent for all candidates to the same programme and/or scholarship. Questions should be drawn up in advance and allow for some probing and exploration of skills and ability within a defined set of parameters.

After the interview

Following the interview, the outcome, which will be as a result of an evidence-based decision, should be communicated as quickly as possible (normally within three weeks). If there is to be a longer delay in communicating a decision (for example if all interviews are conducted before decisions are communicated) we will let you know.  Communications following an interview should be coordinated by the Admissions team or a designated College administration function.

Colleges should ensure that the formal records of the interview are collated and securely stored. A copy of these records should also be made available to the Admissions Office. These records should then be destroyed in accordance with the timelines laid down under retention policies as required by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2018.

Feedback

Feedback on any interview is available to all candidates and any interview records compiled are subject to General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2018. Any written notes of the interview can be requested by applicants following an interview.

Requests for feedback should be made in writing by the applicant to the Admissions Office.

For more information, please see our Feedback policy.

Policy approval and updates

This policy was approved by the University of Exeter Admissions Policy Group, April 2019.

The University may be required to amend any of the above recommendations in line with new legislation and good practice.