Friday, March 16, 2007

'Not About Social Engineering'

Until around thirty years ago British Universities, particularly Oxbridge, operated a system wherby the children of alumni would get preferential treatment when it came to admissions. To most people the abolition of this system was just because applicants should only be judged on their personal academic merit and what your parents did or did not do should not be a factor. Our current government disagree:
LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The government will allow university admissions officers to consider the occupation and education of parents as part of the process to decide whether their children will be accepted to study for a degree.....
..... "I do think this is a sensible change to widen public participation in higher education," Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell, told BBC radio on Friday. "It is not about social engineering -- I want people from all backgrounds to access higher education."
The government appear to view the Universities as instruments in class war rather than as
scholarly institutions. In some esoteric sense it is undoubtably true that it is unfair that someone's ability to develop academically is heavily influenced by their background, but the University system has a limited amount of resources and their job is not to try to equalise all life's inequalities (in 3 years) but to take the students who are best prepared for higher education and teach them. It isn't even very good for the supposed beneficiaries of the scheme seeing as studies repeatedly show that admitting students with lower academic achievements simply causes a higher drop out rate, meaning that there will be a lot of heavily indebted young people without much to show for it.

Of course two practical problems exist with this proposal too, it is very easy to lie on the application and a degree is a very vague indicator of someone's family educational background.

ps. Laban Tall points out that this supposed concern with 'access' to higher education comes mostly from people sho have waged a jihad on the most effective methods of educational mobility.

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