Texas university kills 'biased' PhD applicant screening system 

Occurred: 2013-2020

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A machine learning-based algorithm used to evaluate applicants for the University of Texas at Austin’s PhD in computer science was pulled after concerns about bias and inequality.

Used from 2013, the computer science department's GRADE (GRaduate ADmissions Evaluator) algorithm was trained using the details of students acce[ted before 2013 in order to teach the system to identify people the school would favour. 

GRADE made the school's admissions process quicker, but was also found to have been disadvantaging underrepresented groups, notably women and Black people, on which the university was latterly placing greater emphasis. The system was terminated in December 2020 after a student backlash.

Created by a University of Texas faculty member and graduate student, GRADE predicted how likely the admissions committee was to approve an applicant and expressed that prediction as a numerical score out of five. The system also explained what factors most impacted its decision. 


Operator: University of Texas at Austin
Developer: University of Texas at Austin
Country: USA
Sector: Education
Purpose: Assess PhD applications
Technology: Machine learning
Issue: Bias/discrimination - race, gender
Transparency: Governance