A golden anniversary that does not glister

July 18, 2013

We should give two cheers, not three, for the 50th anniversary of the Robbins report (“Here’s to class act that challenged tyranny of class in admissions”, Opinion, 11 July).

The report led to a massive expansion of higher education, making access dependent on ability rather than class. But this expansion led to three big mistakes.

First, students’ social status was undermined by the erosion of the value of grants and their eventual replacement with loans. Adequate grants in the 1960s and 1970s meant that most university students were equals, but this is no longer so because of growing dependence on family support.

Second, undergraduate courses were provided primarily in response to the number of applicants rather than economic need. In consequence, many graduates failed to find appropriate jobs. Equality of access to university has not been followed by equality of career opportunities.

Third, in the 1960s all universities were expected to be of similar academic, if not social, standard. Preferential funding has led to the emergence of “Oxbridge” as a divisively elite tier of higher education. Unequal access to the university system has been replaced by unjustifiable inequalities between institutions.

British universities have thrived in the past 50 years. However, the UK has become a much more unequal society, in marked economic decline relative to other countries. A major initiative such as Robbins needs to be judged by its effects on the nation, not on higher education institutions.

Frederic Stansfield
Canterbury
Kent

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Monster behind man at desk

Despite all that’s been done to improve doctoral study, horror stories keep coming. Here three students relate PhD nightmares while two academics advise on how to ensure a successful supervision

Sir Christopher Snowden, former Universities UK president, attacks ratings in wake of Southampton’s bronze award

opinion illustration

Eliminating cheating services, even if it were possible, would do nothing to address students’ and universities’ lack of interest in learning, says Stuart Macdonald

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

celebrate, cheer, tef results

Emilie Murphy calls on those who challenged the teaching excellence framework methodology in the past to stop sharing their university ratings with pride