Brown's bright idea is a bargain 1

August 30, 2002

John Mace's negative comments on chancellor Gordon Brown's financial support for students from poorer backgrounds are based on a superficial analysis ("Education, education, too much education?", THES , August 23).

No one would argue that the scheme can solve social inequality but it can move us in the right direction. Participation rates in higher education may be only 5 per cent higher on average, but the greater impact is among those on lower incomes. It is meaningless to argue that "the money could have been spent differently to greater effect". The article made no attempt to quantify the impact, nor to give alternatives. Many 16 to 18-year-olds "do not stay in education because of the need for money now". But how many? If a significant number stay on, that is worthwhile. Real numbers need to be analysed before we can come to firm conclusions.

Maybe 80 per cent of children from the top social groups go to university and closer to 20 per cent from the lower. But anyone who goes to a graduation ceremony at a university where students come largely from the latter group cannot but be moved by the parental support and student sense of achievement.

A degree does not guarantee that all these students will get top jobs, but there are few examples of people regretting their experience or feeling disadvantaged in the long term. It opens doors to careers and other opportunities.

Bruce Lloyd
Professor of strategic management
South Bank University

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