Super-selection only perpetuates privilege (2 of 2)

December 22, 2011

I thought it was hilarious that, in an article on the progress being made by Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws at Mansfield College to promote fair access to the University of Oxford ("For fair access, Oxford needs to drop the snobbery", 15 December) "the question of whether such access schemes might throw up unfair barriers for pupils from private schools" was seriously raised once again.

Why is it that the same people who could not care less about the situation of the disadvantaged are always quite so concerned to protect the prerogatives of the already privileged? It is private schools that are unfair.

Privately educated pupils make up about 7 per cent of the secondary education sector; the remaining 93 per cent are state educated. It would be fair if we restricted the number of places at Oxford and the University of Cambridge that were available to privately educated students to this same 7 per cent of intake each year. Even Mansfield, which this year offered 84.5 per cent of its places to pupils from the state sector, admitted 15.5 per cent of its students from the private sector.

If such a quota system were introduced, the parents of privately educated students would move house, as the middle classes do now, to get their children into the catchment area of the still selective state schools (many of them as socially and culturally exclusive as private schools) to take advantage of the 93 per cent of Oxbridge places available to children educated in the state sector, but this would still be an improvement on the current situation.

And before anyone complains about manipulating the education system for the purposes of "social engineering", private education, and moving house to get one's children into the catchment area of so-called good schools, is social engineering: it is the middle and upper classes who already manipulate the education system in their own interest.

However, it would be nice to know how many of Mansfield's state-educated students come from comprehensive schools and further education colleges and how their results compare with those of the selective and privately educated students at Mansfield and at other Oxford colleges. If the state-educated students at Oxford and Cambridge do as well as or even better than the privately educated students then there can no longer be any excuse for the other colleges to continue with their grossly unfair access policies.

Kenneth Smith, Bucks New University

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