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

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