10.01.2013 - UNESCO Office in Santiago

University Leaders and Director of the UNESCO Chair on Inclusion in Higher Education question the Chilean PSU (University Selection Exam) as a model that boosts social segregation

In the context of the results of the university selection exam to enter higher education in Chile, spokespersons demanded a radical change in the university admission policy.

Conference's photos

On the day that results of the University Selection Exam in Chile (PSU) are presented, the chair of the Students’ Federation of the universities of Santiago, Chile, Alberto Hurtado, Federico Santa María and Católica, along with the director of the UNESCO Chair on Inclusion in Higher Education, Francisco Javier Gil, at a press conference held at the UNESCO headquarters in Santiago, Chile, questioned models of this university admission instrument to deepen segregation. 

Andres Fielbaum, President of FECH; Diego Vela, President of FEUC; Victoria Moreau, President of FEAUSAM; Sebastian Donoso, President of FEUSACH and Pablo Flores, President of FEUAH set forth their critiques of the current selection system to access higher education, since the PSU is an instrument that reproduces school differentiation, prejudicing those students who come from municipal and subsidized private secondary schools.

On that occasion, the university leaders laid out the need to modify the university admission system, “since education must be a right, we must therefore fight the social segregation that the PSU reproduces” Andres Fielbaum maintained. In addition, he added: “We do not want universities for rich and for poor, because we do not want a country for the rich and for the poor. Therefore, it is very important that universities be inclusive and welcome the diversity of people that make up our society”.

In turn, Sebastian Donoso, referred to the inclusion of the school ranking from which the applicant to the university originates from, which is included into the selection process for the first year, “this is a step ahead as it assesses the student’s educational achievement allowing for greater equality in the admission process. This ranking is a positive element, although some pending doubts on this topic remain such as dues in preparing public policies on topics of inclusive education”. He added that “During 2012 we struggled to include school rankings as an admittance variable. This is an important step to guarantee that the best students from the poorest schools may have the opportunity they deserve. However, there is much to do, at present the PSU is a segregating exam and this contributes to inequalities in our country”.

Pre-university courses increase, while PSU (University Selection Exam) weighting decreases



Victoria Moreau, President of the Students’ Federation of the Universidad Federico Santa Maria, stated that “we feel proud for being the first to launch an initiative of courses for pre-university studies created by students and that our initiative was heard by all the sectors. Nevertheless, we believe that the administration, the actual on and those to come in the future, must take action of the existing gap and guarantee better access and equality in higher education”. Moreau also commented on the relevance of assessing the change that 8 universities made as regards to giving a greater weighting to school scores and to decrease the weighting of the PSU result for applicants: “This is a breakthrough, an undertaking appropriated by each university, which when added to the school ranking, will allow an important percentage of youths with no previous opportunity, to enter these academic units, today they can do it”, said Victoria Moreau.

Universities that did not give much importance to PSU weighting are the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, the Universidad de Santiago de Chile, the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María, the Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción, the Universidad de Antofagasta, Universidad de Tarapacá and the Universidad de Magallanes.

Pablo Flores, from the Universidad Alberto Hurtado, explained that it is necessary to modify the system completely, not only changing the scholarship system, but by eliminating the Aporte Fiscal Indirecto (AFI) (indirect fiscal support), as it continues to provide financing to universities associated with the highest PSU results. “It is necessary to transform the Chilean education system on a whole. The PSU is one of its perverse parts, because it is the result of a system focused on a market that does not guarantee equal and accessible education to all. The 700 points of the PSU of a student without books at home, coming from a bad school cannot equal the same points of a student with all the support. Today, what appears as personal merit is the reproduction of a model that perpetuates inequalities”.

Diego Vela from FEUC stated, “All in all, we are demanding that the selection system for higher education be modified, we want that an inclusive policy work permitting youth from any social strata have the possibility of gaining access to university”. Vela added that “the university exam not only segregates and sustains the existing gaps in academic education, it increases it. In Chile, income determines a person´s right to education. The inclusion of ranking and pre-university courses are efforts that sustain an unfair model; change is stop seeing education as a consumer good”.

On that occasion, student leaders also put forward the need to modify the scholarship system, which at present – with the exception of the scholarship for academic excellence – are associated to PSU results and not school academic performance.

These demands were supported by director of the UNESCO Chair in Inclusion in Higher Education, Francisco Javier Gil, who stated that in Chile there are currently 345 schools from which none of their graduates obtain over 500 points in the PSU which is the minimum required to apply to universities “this figure says a lot on how this exam excludes a large segment of students”.

Gil announced that the ranking is here to stay. “Unlike some Pre-university programs offered today by some 12 universities, or Talent Inclusion programs, such as that offered for the past three years by
the P. Universidad Católica and the Sistema de Ingreso Prioritario de Equidad Educativa (Educational Equity Priority Admission System) provided by Universidad de Chile – surely tools that have allowed many of the best students from the high-school education to benefit from – must disappear one day”.

Gil pointed out that “the Admission system must change, it must focus on school academic performance in context, or on ranking without bias and a very good predictor of university performance”.




  • Francisco Javier Gil, UNESCO Chair on Inclusion in Higher Education. 
  • (Video in Spanish) Diego Vela, President of the Students Federation of the Universidad de Chile. 
  • (Video in Spanish) Victoria Moreau, President of the Student Federation of the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María



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