Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Day 54 - Elite Institutions

Discussion in the media about elitism can be a bit weird.
Recently, I read that the UK is 'deeply elitist' because high proportions of top level business, political, media, and public sector leaders went to fee-paying schools and/or Oxbridge.
OK, so we seem to be saying that we should be seeing a wider proportion of leaders who went to other universities, right?
So what's the solution at grass-roots level?

The solution seems to be, largely, to encourage pupils from a range of backgrounds to attend Oxbridge. This seems rather like you're addressing part of the disparity that you have identified, but ignored the second half.

Recently, the cap on University undergraduate numbers was lifted, and Russell Group universities entered clearing with abandon, hoovering up students with promise. After all, if you have the choice to go to an ancient university with excellent funding and an excellent reputation, why wouldn't you? I would.

My own institution elected not to go into clearing this year, and I heard it said that we didn't want to be seen as the sort of university that has to go into clearing in order to make up numbers. The universities with the best funding and the best education will attract the best students and the best funding, no matter how much they charge. Lifting the cap on numbers of students will not necessarily benefit all universities, but will probably just benefit those in the Russell Group.

The funding model that allocates such a large proportion of money to Russell Group universities at the expense of other institutions is designed to maintain their positions at the 'top of the tree'. This is a free market economy, and the fittest must survive, whatever that means. As young academics, we have a future mapped out for us, where we aim for Russell Group universities as a sign of prestige and honour. In other words, we will be joining the academic elite.

And I don't know how I feel about that.

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