Azara Blog: Labour Minister tries to social engineer universities yet again

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Date published: 2008/04/08

The BBC says:

England's universities will be required to have "transparent" admissions policies to convince people they are not biased, the government has decided.

The announcement, by Universities Secretary John Denham, is part of a redoubling of efforts to get 50% of young people into higher education.

He said he wanted universities to show that their staff were implementing their admissions policies fairly.
"On the one hand, universities that try to take a student's individual background, the challenges they have faced, into account, are liable to be accused of political correctness and social engineering," he said.

"But on the other, there are plenty of people prepared to take the fact of a disproportionate number of students from more privileged backgrounds at a particular university as prima facie evidence of snobbery and social bias on the part of admissions staff."

Mr Denham added: "While there is no evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with most admissions, ultimately the debate is corrosive of public confidence in the system."

He argued that the answer lay in each university having a published admissions policy and being able to show it could equip all those involved in admissions to implement the policy accurately and fairly - and assure itself that this was happening.

Denham is unbelievable. It is the people who hang around the Labour government who are the people who are interested in social engineering. It is not some anonymous third force. It is these same middle class people who always bleat about alleged bias in admissions (although of course they are happy that their own kids are pushed to the front of the Oxbridge queue). Universities already have published admissions policies (just visit any of their websites). What Denham seems to be really asking for is some perfect algorithmic formula which "proves" that poor kids are just as likely to get into university as rich kids. Unfortunately the phrase "just as likely" is going to be based on school population, not university applications, and since the latter are skewed towards the rich, what Denham and his ilk really want is an admissions procedure provably heavily biased towards the poor. Needless to say, these kids are poorly educated thanks to the crap school system that Denham and the Labour government have done nothing to improve over the past decade for the ordinary kids of Britain. But as always, Denham and the Labour government expect universities to miraculously fix the problem. (The next Tory government will be no better.)

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