Tuesday, 2 August 2011

To those who have, shall be given more

Wow. I thought that the government's White Paper on Higher Education was a naked piece of class politics mixed with a massive dollop of hard-right shock-capitalism.

Now it seems like a bit of fluff compared to their latest wheeze: allowing universities to 'buy' high-achieving A-level students by giving them loads of extra cash (alongside the plan to allow low-cost universities to recruit more, directly leading to pile-em-high, sell-em-cheap degrees for the paupers).

So: taxpayers money is to be spent on bribing students.

Who are these high-achieving kids?

Well, they're the rich kids. The vast majority of AAA/AAB students go to fee-paying schools or selective grammar schools. That is, their parents buy them into exclusive catchment areas, small class sizes, lots of nice equipment, warm, dry buildings, school trips to exotic and informative places, extra one-to-one tuition, and provide them with everything they might ever need.

When they get to university, research shows that these privileged kids don't get the top grades: when the playing field is levelled, the poor kids show that intellect isn't linked to class.

But of course, the poor kids don't get to the élite universities, because their secondary education achievements aren't as high. This is why Oxford and Cambridge take state money and admit 50% of their intake from fee-paying schools. Now the plan is to allow the middle-ranking universities to grab their share of economically-privileged AAB students using money which could be spent on supporting poorer students. Never mind the rest of us, quietly providing a brilliant education in particular subjects. Never mind the needs of those students who'll blossom at university regardless of their A-levels. It's too late: your future is set the minute you turn up at primary school. The state doesn't care about you: it only cares about those who play the system before they're old enough to smoke.

So this new scam is actually taking money from the poor to give to the rich. Who put the Sheriff of Nottingham in charge of education?

I've got a better idea. Let's stop rating universities by A-level intake. Let's rate them on the improvement between intake and graduation. It can't be hard to get an AAA student to a first-class degree (surely they're all capable of it - what's going wrong, Oxford?), but it must be harder for one of my CDD students to get there.

(Disclosure - I did badly at my A-levels, except for an A in English. I went to Bangor on the Clearing system, took a 1st, three prizes and an MA, then did a PhD elsewhere).


Grumpy Bob said...

I have no A-levels as I was at a Scottish school. So following from that, does this new wheeze from HMG make it even harder for Scottish kids to get to Oxbridge?

The Plashing Vole said...

That's an interesting question - Highers finish at 17, like Ireland, don't they? I think it probably will disadvantage Scottish students.