Top universities in ‘social engineering’ row

In an article in the Daily Mail, 16/07/13, Dr Tim Hands, Master of the Magdalen College School, Oxford, and HMC chairman elect is quoted in response to claims that universities have agreed to to take on thousands more students from state schools with lower grades.

Over half of the 20 elite Russell Group universities in England have now outlined plans to take more students from state schools under agreements with the Office for Fair Access.

‘If we exclude the brightest students then we are on a course that will damage the economy.’ Dr Tim Hands, Master of the Magdalen College School, Oxford, and chairman elect of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), said the targets represented ‘the dysfunctionality of some Coalition thinking’.

‘They are skewing the statistics for short-term gain rather than improving education for the long-term gain of our young people,’ he added.

Universities are also using ‘contextual data’ such as whether applicants’ parents went to university and what their occupations are to help select students from ‘under-represented groups’.

Universities were allowed to start charging up to £9,000 from last Autumn. Any charging above £6,000 must draw up an access agreement with OFFA. Plans for 2014-2015 have been submitted by 162. The organisation has the power to fine institutions £500,000 or ban them from charging top fees if they fail to widen access. Nearly three-quarters have announced they will charge the maximum for some or all of their courses from next year. They are also increasing spending on work to attract students from deprived backgrounds by more than 50 per cent over the next five years, taking the total to £124.5 million.

Last year HMC universities spokesman Chris Ramsey said public schools should boycott universities that discriminate against their pupils in favour of state-educated applicants.

By Andrew Levy, Daily Mail. Click here to read the article © Daily Mail.