When diverse becomes perverse 3

April 26, 2002

Meritocracy means "rule based on merit". "Taking people on the basis of performance" is not that, Alan Ryan (Letters, THES , April 19) notwithstanding.

He's right that this principle works for picking football teams or casting an opera. But higher education is different, isn't it? We don't expect 50 per cent of the population to play for England or sing at Covent Garden. What is more, we don't prevent everyone else from singing or kicking a ball because they don't reach that standard.

If we are not clear what higher education is for, as Ryan seems to think, then we should at least ask instead what we gain by excluding people from it. Don't answer "because more means worse". When Kingsley Amis and his chums coined this slogan, they meant you, dear readers - or most of you, at any rate.

Roger Harris
Tottenham campus dean of students
Middlesex University

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