The age of inequality

March 20, 1998

FOR how much longer will it be acceptable to lay the blame for the social bias that is pervasive throughout our education system at the door of a handful of crusty dons in Oxford? As Maria Eagle's own figures show, state school entrants form 45 per cent of applicants and 44 per cent of accepted applicants, which hardly indicates massive bias on the part of admissions tutors.

As you report (THES, March 13) and as everyone already knows, the problem of social inequality in university intake is sector-wide, although varying in intensity. If there is a solution it has more to do with a grant and fee system that favours the less well-off than blaming stereotyped dons for the continuation of some Inspector Morse fantasy. Is it not truly absurd to blame poor rates of application to Oxbridge on their antiquated (but democratic) systems of governance?

When the government has agreed to accept the Lords' amendments to the Teaching and Higher Education Bill, which retain the grant for students from lower-income homes, we shall know that Labour MPs are in a position to lecture academics about equality of access to higher education.

Andrew Fisher

Department of history University of Hull

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