Quality row hides cuts aim

September 22, 1995

Alan Smithers rightly recognises (THES, September 15) that "home students admitted to full-time first-degree courses at British universities have a number of privileges conferred upon them", including payment of their fees.

What he fails to add is that for many years those from more affluent families have been the prime beneficiaries of this privilege.

Alternative entry routes enable it to be shared by those who have the potential to benefit from higher education, but who lack advantage in their educational and family background.

The quality of such routes is of as much concern to these students as to anyone involved in higher education.

However, the point that Alan Smithers may be missing is that the current backlash against the expansion of higher education in general and against the new universities in particular, is obviously not motivated (as he no doubt is) by a genuine concern for quality.

The standards argument is being deployed, not for the first time, as the justification for an elite system, and as a pretext for further cuts in higher education funding, which are almost certainly on the way.

Maggie Woodrow International Office University of Westminster

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