Why I...think Oxbridge MA degrees should be scrapped

June 16, 2000

Jackie Lawrence. Labour MP for Pembrokeshire. Last week she put forward an Early Day Motion for the phasing out of the Oxbridge MA: 43 MPs signed it.

I did not know that Oxbridge graduates can pay a small fee and automatically upgrade their BA to an MA until last week, following a conversation with a colleague. Although academics may regard it as standard practice, employers may not have come across it.

This means that students from Oxford and Cambridge will have a distinct advantage in the open jobs market over graduates from other universities. Employers will be easily misled into believing that Oxbridge students are better qualified than others. It is down to the Oxbridge graduates to explain that their MA is not what it seems, but they will not necessarily want to disadvantage themselves.

This Oxbridge tradition both devalues and undermines the efforts of students at other universities who have put in an extra year of work or sat additional exams in order to put the same letters after their names. As this country's top universities, Oxford and Cambridge have every reason to be proud of their excellence. Their graduates know that they have achieved high standards to be accepted in the first place, so why should it be necessary to fool people into thinking they have an additional qualification?

If we cannot phase out this discriminatory practice, then we should offer every graduate the opportunity to convert their BA to an MA, regardless of their subject, degree or place of study, in a spirit of equality and fairness.

It is important that we level the playing field between different universities and their graduates - especially in the light of recent debates about university admissions.

* Interview by Jennifer Currie Should Oxbridge MAs be scrapped?

Email us at soapbox@thes.co.uk

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Board Member BOURNEMOUTH UNIVERSITY (MAIN OFFICE)

Most Commented

Elderly woman looking up at sky

A recent paper claims that the quality of researchers declines with age. Five senior scientists consider the data and how they’ve contributed through the years

Otto illustration (5 May 2016)

Craig Brandist on the proletarianisation of a profession and how it leads to behaviours that could hobble higher education

smiley, laugh, happy, funny, silly, face, faces

Scholars should cheer up and learn to take the rough with the smooth, says John Tregoning

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration 19 May 2016

Tim Blackman’s vision of higher education for the 21st century is one in which students of varying abilities learn successfully together

James Minchall illustration (12 May 2016)

An online experiment proves that part of the bill for complying with the Freedom of Information Act is self-inflicted, says Louis Goddard