Alex Massie Alex Massie

University Admissions Should Be a Matter of Discrimination – Spectator Blogs

Cristina Odone begins her latest oh-woe-is-Britain post most amusingly:

Around the world, people have long envied Britain’s two institutions: the BBC and Oxbridge. Britons, however, (or some of them) are determined to destroy both. They are going about it in a brutal and obvious way, by lowering standards for both Auntie and the great universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The BBC abroad was a byword for beautifully written and brilliantly produced programmes such as “The World at War” and “Upstairs Downstairs”. But in its obsession with “diversity”, the Beeb has allowed standards to slip: comedies that aren’t funny (but don’t sound middle class) and reality shows that teach nothing but how temporal celebrity is, have taken over the schedule. Soon the BBC brand will be synonymous with Simon Cowell rather than David Attenborough, Laurence Friedman and literary classics. It will, in other words, be a joke.

I say this is amusing because, of the many programmes one might cite to praise the BBC, it’s droll to choose two that were made for ITV. Entertaining too to suggest the BBC “brand” will be synonymous with another ITV man, Simon Cowell at the expense of “literary classics” even as the corporation broadcasts a lavish, very fine, adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End.

Unfortunately this might be the high-point of Ms Odone’s lament. She argues:

The same is going to happen to Oxbridge (and the other top universities), if the Coalition’s “access adviser” Prof Les Ebdon has his way.

[…] When children leave secondary schools without knowing how to read, write or do their sums, what can a university, even the best university, do with them? It is not fair to push an illiterate into Oxford instead of a brilliant middle-class child. It’s not fair, and it’s not good for anyone: not for the illiterate who will feel out of her depth; not for the university which will have compromised its standards and name; not for the economy which will have lost out on a potential talent.

Well! As it happens I also think the Office for Fair Access is a nonsense but not because I think it’s going to insist Oxford (or anyone else) accepts “illiterates” (what a smoothly unpleasant way of putting it, incidentally).

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