Time to privilege talent over luck 1

September 28, 2007

Yet another study, this time by the Sutton Trust, demonstrating that top universities tend to select students from elite (and mainly private) schools ("Elite few still fill top universities", September 21).

This outcome has been well known at least since the 1970 report of the Public Schools Commission, and is usually explained in two ways. At an institutional level, the universities may be biased in favour of particular schools. At a cultural level, students from some schools may lack the cultural capital or orientations valued by elite universities.

One way to solve this problem would simply be to omit personal information, including school attended, personal statement, reference and place of residence, from the information sent to the university by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. After all, we are used to assessing examination scripts without reference to these details. If universities wanted to run additional selection procedures, such as personal interviews or further examinations, they would be free to do this, provided only that the procedures were anonymised.

This wouldn't cost a great deal and would enable us to use the pool of available talent more effectively.

Over to you, Mr Brown (and Ucas).

Peter Taylor-Gooby
Professor of social policy
Kent University

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