Universities in England may be permitted to make extra places available for wealthy British students, under government proposals…
Under the latest proposals, wealthy students could pay higher fees for an extra place at the university of their choice as long as they meet entry requirements.
The move would enable the most popular universities to expand.
Note that “entry requirements” can be rock-bottom basic. Malcolm knows of a sporty type offered a place at Cambridge on the basis of two E-grades at A-level, the recommendation of an alumnus, and his cricketing and footballing prowess — said sporty type rose to the challenge, took a scholarship and went Redbrick instead.
We are used, in England and Wales, to the notion of “classes” of degree: First, Upper and Lower Second, and Third.
Once upon a time it was possible, even respectable, to have a fun-filled time at Uni, play all the games going, and graduate with a “sporting Third”. Rapid promotion in the family firm was guaranteed on the basis of your “Blue”.
Thus the late Alec Douglas-Home, as Lord Dunglass, could swan through Eton and Christ Church, play for Oxford University Cricket Club and emerge with his “sporting Third”. He was good enough to play for Middlesex and went on a minor tour with the MCC. That, admittedly, was in the days when the “gentlemen” paid their way and the “players” travelled steerage. All of which eminently prepared him to succeed Harold Macmillan (who, for other and honourable reasons, never graduated) as Tory Leader and Prime Minister.
With the ConDem coalition, it’s Back to the Future.
Or as Rossetti rendered Villon —
Nay, never ask this week, fair lord,
Where they are gone, nor yet this year,
Save with this much for an overword, —
But where are the snows of yester-year?
The curse of a First-class mind
There’s a curious thing about the allegedly highly-intelligent: many of them shouldn’t be left unsupervised with a sharp implement or a loose tongue.
A prime specimen is David “Two Brains” Willetts, previously star of the Tory grammar-school debacle. On that occasion, Willetts went before the Star Chamber of the CBI to restate Tory policy, arguing for “more good schools”, but ruling out restoring selective grammar schools. The broadsheets and Cameron backed Willetts: the mid-market tabloids roasted him.
This time round, as he has a habit of doing (as with Caroline Spelman on privatising forests and now Lansbury over the NHS), Cameron has hung Willetts out to dry. This has involved Willetts playing with words to cover his humiliation. Nobody is greatly convinced: Rosa Prince in the Telegraph sees it as:
Tellingly, she adds:
In what was described as a spectacular own goal in an area of government which has already proved the most fraught of the Coalition’s first year, David Willetts, the Universities Minister, floated the idea that institutions could provide extra places for a higher price.
While he insisted that the scheme did not amount to buying university places, he was immediately accused of creating a two tier system which disadvantaged students who could not afford five-figure fees.
One expert suggested that the model proposed by the minister was unheard of in the western world, and was similar to that in operating in developing countries where governments could not afford to educate their young people.
There’s a lot to cavil at there: education is no more “fraught” that wide swathes of ConDem policy (the economy, NHS, transport, … ). That analogy with “developing countries” which cannot afford to educate their young people: sounds too close for comfort.
However, Cameron is being disingenuous in the extreme when he says:
“The Government’s policy is absolutely clear. University access is about being able to learn not about being able to pay.
“There is no question of people being able to buy their way into university.
Of course entrance to Uni is all about the ability to pay.
That’s what keeps the public schools afloat.
That’s why private tuition is the middle-class norm.