Feeding the fat Russell locusts

June 16, 2000

I am concerned that the government has caused, albeit for the best of motives, a recruitment imbalance that will do serious harm to a number of universities. These are the institutions that depend on the recruitment of undergraduates from "zones of low participation" for their bread and butter ("Reaching out to make society just", THES, May 12).

Every university in the land is now directed by government to target these students. Oxbridge and the Russell Group will simply cherry-pick the best student prospects, those who have for years provided the success stories of their less well-endowed neighbours.

I would not be surprised to see some very worthwhile inner-city new universities slide further down the league tables. And it will be a direct result of the government's worthy policy.

Will the education secretary David Blunkett praise and compensate these universities for losing their "best" students to institutions better endowed with cash and "quality"?

Or will he and his quality agencies note this "decline in intake quality" and further penalise those universities whose meagre croplands have been ravaged by some already fat locusts?

The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the Standing Conference of Principals and the professional bodies do not seem to have recognised the potential impact on some very vulnerable members and member institutions. Can one be just too PC in the interests of supposed equality?

Geoff Ward University of Hertfordshire.

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