Free choice is not elitist

November 6, 2008

I feel I must take issue with Brian Roper of London Metropolitan University ("Go private, London Met boss tells Oxbridge", 16 October).

Of course universities should ideally be all-inclusive and "transform people's lives'". It is part of the social role of a university to help anybody who meets the appropriate criteria, of whatever background, age, creed or colour, to be as good as they can be, even if the dropout rate is high. This is one part of lifelong learning that is in the state's interest as well as the individual's.

Yet despite the state's desire for everyone to have the chance to maximise their capabilities, our differing intellectual capabilities will inevitably lead to differing outcomes. If university is supposed to raise individuals to a higher intellectual level, where do the people go who are clever to start with, so that they too can be made cleverer?

There must be freedom of choice, for both the individual and institution, which will lead to accusations of elitism. But education does not have to be socially divisive unless you deliberately make it so.

Anthony Newell, Brussels.

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