Hodge's elitism dig is a bit rich (1)

July 5, 2002

Margaret Hodge lambasts university "elitism" because she wants "an intellectual elite not a social elite" ("You are all too elitist, says Hodge", THES , June 28). So she wants elitism then. But does the higher education minister really want us to admit large numbers from previously excluded groups? The government's treatment of post-92 universities makes one doubt it.

Universities discriminate against people from lower-income brackets because the school system does. The better-off buy education for their children, if not by paying school fees, then by moving into catchment areas of favoured schools. Pressing for more working-class accents in Russell Group universities is cosmetic and will not meet new Labour's 50 per cent participation rate target. Instead, "posh" universities, seeing some surprisingly good students lower down the pecking order, will merely cream them off with Hodge's blessing.

She needs ten or 15 more universities full of students from previously excluded social groups to make a real dent. Yet Hodge's department is penalising the very universities that have met the challenge of more students.

The least wealthy, post-92 universities were induced to spend to chase vanishing research money. Now that students are scarce, thanks to foolish government policies on student finance, the cap is taken off recruitment at older universities to ensure they prosper at the expense of those who took the 50 per cent target to heart. The binary divide is dead - long live the binary divide.

Roger Harris
Dean of students
Tottenham Campus
Middlesex University

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