Debate on Preferential Admissions to a South African Medical School

While affirmative action admissions programs remain controversial in the United States 45 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, officials at the medical school of the University of Cape Town in South Africa are considering whether preferential admissions for blacks are still justified, just 15 years after the downfall of the apartheid system.

Under the present system, whites need to achieve a score of 91 percent on their entrance examination whereas black applicants need only a score of 74 percent to meet the minimum admissions standard.

Critics of the admissions guidelines point out that many of the black students who qualify for admission to the medical school with low test scores come from privileged backgrounds and attended the nation’s best secondary schools and undergraduate colleges. They argue that a more just preferential admissions plan should be based not on race but rather on socioeconomic disadvantage.