Affirmative action was hurting black students

Harvard may have a slightly more difficult time poaching black students from Boston College, Miami University of Ohio, or other less elite schools in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision invalidating Harvard’s racial admissions regime. Recruiters from BlackRock and Goldman Sachs may have to suffer the indignity of recruiting their black employees from the University of Connecticut or Rice University, rather than from Stanford and Yale. But contrary to the hysterical rhetoric from President Joe Biden, the Court’s dissenting Justices, and the democratic commentariat, the doors of educational opportunity will remain wide open to black people. As many black students as before will go to college, assuming that they

The ‘professional liar’ at the heart of Prince Harry’s hacking claim

In the summer of 2019, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were visiting their friends Elton John and David Furnish in the south of France when they were introduced to the barrister David Sherborne. This ‘chance’ meeting would be a massive coup for the man known as the ‘barrister to the stars’ (he represented Coleen Rooney in the Wagatha Christie trial and Johnny Depp against Amber Heard, among many others. Many years ago, he also acted for Harry’s mother, Princess Diana). The encounter led to Prince Harry becoming the star witness against three newspaper groups. ‘It was partially down to Elton and David,’ Harry later wrote in Spare. ‘At the end

Why Britain is falling behind in the global universities race

Our country still excels when it comes to higher education. Britain has seven of the world’s top 50 universities. In spite of many claims that Brexit would lead to a reduction in the number of foreign students, the intake has never been higher. In 2021-22, there were 680,000 overseas students in higher education in Britain, an increase of 123,000 in just two years. That’s good news for the British economy. A report by London Economics estimated that one year’s intake of students would, by the time their courses had finished, bring in £29 billion in revenue from tuition fees and other income. Importantly, the benefits are spread all over the

British universities are beyond redemption

There’s no doubt that the government has the best of intentions when it comes to clearing up the Augean stables of UK higher education: witness its setting up of the Office for Students to protect students’ interests against ever-more monolithic university management, and more recently this year’s Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act aimed at safeguarding the interests of both students and staff. However, all this leaves a much more awkward issue: what are we actually promoting? True, it’s the done thing for middle-class 18-year-olds to be sent away to university. True too that you still need a degree to obtain certain kinds of well-paid jobs. But these aside, why

Trump’s second act: he can still win, in spite of everything

Everyone knows F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous line from the end of his unfinished novel The Last Tycoon: ‘There are no second acts in American lives.’ But Fitzgerald wasn’t talking about second chances. He meant that, unlike in a traditional play – where Act I presents a problem, Act II reveals the complications and Act III resolves it all – Americans want to skip Act II and go straight to the resolution. The more I think about it, the more I think the Joe Biden presidency is Act II – and Donald Trump is not the last tycoon. He’s Act III. He’s the next president. The campaign of lawfare against him

Letters: The case for legalising cannabis

Paying the price Sir: Lionel Shriver’s piece about university standards rang true to me (‘University is supposed to be hard’, 15 October). When I, then working for a distinctly moth-eaten British university, visited a very famous private college in Massachusetts in 1985, I expressed my envy of his luxurious surroundings to a professor of English. His reply was: ‘Don’t envy us. You have something we don’t have. It’s called standards.’ He went on to say that he had just been warned about his behaviour as he had given a ‘very generous’ B minus for an essay by an ‘idle, insolent, profoundly ignorant pig of a student’, who complained about the

Why are our universities still cosy with China?

It sounds like something from a spy novel: scientists linked to the Chinese military complex working at UK universities on sensitive technologies, which can be used for weapons development by the Chinese Communist party. Except, this is no novel. This is very much reality. New research uncovered by Civitas has revealed that there are at least 60 individuals from tech and defence conglomerates in China, in addition to military-affiliated defence universities, who have either worked alongside UK universities or who are even formally associated with them. This figure includes at least two active members of the Chinese army (the People’s Liberation Army) who are still working at two separate British

Who’s to blame for our censorious students?

Without freedom of speech, you do not have a university. More than any other value, it is freedom of speech that most defines the university, that makes it a special place in society set aside for debate and inquiry in which speech and thought should be freer than in practically any other workplace or institution. And yet an alarming proportion of students seem not to have got the memo. A new study by the Policy Institute at King’s College London confirms what has been clear for some time: that today’s students, far from being rebellious free-thinkers, are if anything more supportive of censorship than the general population. The numbers are pretty

Why has Oxford killed off a much-loved Catholic college?

Few institutions can match the global prestige of Oxford University. Just look at the gifts lavished on it, like offerings brought to some mighty emperor of the ancient world. There’s the Saïd Business School, controversially funded with £50 million from Wafic Saïd, who helped to broker the British-Saudi arms deal. There’s the carbuncular Blavatnik School of Government, criticised by Russian dissidents for how the funder made his millions. There’s the new student housing at St Peter’s College, partly paid for with a donation whose original source was the mid-20th-century fascist demagogue Oswald Mosley. Yes, people do sometimes ask whether there’s any cash the university won’t accept. And now they have

Lionel Shriver

Shame should not be heritable

Vice-chancellor Stephen Toope claims it was ‘inevitable’ that a university ‘as long-established as Cambridge’ would have links to slavery. Now that faculties gorge on racial guilt as Cambridge dons once famously feasted on roasted swans, what was really inevitable is that a body christened ‘The Advisory Group on the Legacies of Enslavement’ would find links to slavery. Why, it must have frustrated the authors of the report released last week that their three-year inquiry didn’t manage to dredge up any evidence that the university ever directly owned slaves or plantations. Rather, it’s the money that was tainted; lucre having always passed through dirty hands somewhere along the line, there’s no

Will my kitchen be designated a ‘safe space’?

As the father of four children who will be entering higher education in the next few years, I’m worried that my home will shortly start to resemble a university campus. In other words, I’ll be forced to declare my preferred gender pronouns, the kitchen will be designated a ‘safe space’ and the collected works of J.K. Rowling will be burnt on the garden lawn. You may think I’m joking, but a new poll from the Higher Education Policy Institute lays bare just how thin-skinned today’s students are. For instance, 61 per cent of undergraduates say that ‘when in doubt’ their university ‘should ensure all students are protected from discrimination rather

The culture wars have crept into Oxbridge admissions

The characters in Sarah Vaughan’s thriller Anatomy of a Scandal include rich Oxford undergraduates from Eton whose main preoccupations are drinking and trashing rooms. They are what it is fashionable to call ‘privileged white males’; while the typical female Oxbridge student is ‘slim, tall, well dressed. Entitled… they knew they belonged there’. The truth, however, is that although Eton is one of the top academic schools in the country, its ‘beaks’ are puzzled by the sharp reduction in the number of their brightest pupils gaining places at Oxbridge. The number of offers has halved between 2014 and 2021. Not very different to Vaughan’s narrative is the argument of the Sutton

America has betrayed its young

Two articles last weekend made me feel sorry for American young people. We in the anti-woke brigade can be awfully hard on kids. But having been born in the 20th century turns out to have been a stroke of good fortune. On Sunday, the New York Times ran a feature about soaring mental illness in American teenagers. Between 2007 and 2018, suicide rates among people aged ten to 24 rose by 60 per cent. Between 2015 and 2019, prescriptions for antidepressants for teenagers rose 38 per cent. Between 2009 and 2019, emergency room visits for self-inflicted injuries among people aged ten to 19 doubled for both sexes; for girls, they

Durham’s maths problem

More exciting news arrives from Britain’s dimmest university, Durham, which is embarking on a programme to ‘decolonise’ mathematics. About time. For too long the subject has been dominated by racist stuff like adding things up or multiplying etc. Hopefully soon there will be room for students, when faced with a question such as ‘what is four plus four?’ to eschew the didacticism of white supremacy by answering ‘eight’ and suggest instead a number which they think feels intuitively right, such as 7,231. (Or indeed any number: it is not for me, as a privileged white straight male, to suggest to people who have been the victims of structural racism an

Why don’t I come with a trigger warning?

Last week brought the news that some universities have attached more ‘trigger warnings’ to certain books, concerned that students may find their contents offensive and upsetting. No, we’re not talking about Lolita, American Psycho or The 120 Days of Sodom. The works judged too disturbing for young people of a sensitive disposition include Oliver Twist, Nineteen Eighty-Four and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I’m not making that last one up. The English department at the University of Chester has included it as a set text on its Approaches to Literature module and cautioned students that it may ‘lead to some difficult conversations about gender, race, sexuality, class, and identity’.

The mind virus killing academia

We lost a giant last month with E.O. Wilson’s passing. A man who stood on Darwin’s shoulders, Wilson had that rare distinction of inspiring a whole discipline in the form of evolutionary psychology. The great sense of loss did not seem to be shared by Scientific American, however, which soon afterwards put out a piece reflecting on the ‘complicated legacies of scientists whose works are built on racist ideas’. Among the ‘problematic’ aspects of Wilson’s work, the author argued, was the ‘descriptions and importance of ant societies existing as colonies’. This was ‘a component of Wilson’s work that should have been critiqued’ because ‘context matters’. Scientific American is not Teen

My meeting with the Durham University mob

My abiding memory of this fairly appalling year is of the face of the young student at Durham University who shouted ‘Disgusting!’ at me as I left the main college building. This followed a very short speech I’d given to about 250 students but which, I suspect, he hadn’t heard because he’d probably walked out before it began. That, incidentally, is one of the reasons this story in which I find myself took a comparatively long while to break. The speech was on a Friday evening — but it wasn’t until Monday, at the earliest, that the lefties got themselves into a real lather. Until then it had simply been

Toby Young

Some (tentative) reasons to be cheerful in 2022

Someone sent me a job advert recently for a Junior Research Fellowship at Queen’s College, Oxford. It states: ‘The Queen’s College embraces diversity and equal opportunity. Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in Oxford. The more inclusive we are, the better our work will be.’ Nothing particularly objectionable about that, although when the college says it aspires to be more ‘inclusive’ it doesn’t mean it wants conservatives to apply, even though they are among the most under–represented groups at Oxford. It makes that clear when it goes on to say Queen’s shares the university’s commitment to promoting equality

Why liberals must stand with Kathleen Stock

I know what it feels like to be bullied and vilified for expressing views with which, eventually, many right-minded people end up agreeing. I am talking, of course, about transgender ideology and the case of Professor Kathleen Stock which this week was belatedly picked up by the mainstream press. In short, a group of University of Sussex students started a campaign for Stock to be sacked on the spot, claiming she was ‘espousing a bastardised version of radical feminism that excludes and endangers trans people’. The group – a collection of poundshop Antifas – said Stock was a danger to transgender people, arguing: ‘We’re not up for debate. We cannot

How the culture wars are killing Western classical music

Musicology may appear an esoteric profession. But several events in the past few years have pushed musicological debates into the columns of national newspapers, from the American academic who claimed that music theory was a ‘racial ideology’ and should be dismantled, to the Oxford professor who allegedly suggested that studying ‘white European music’ caused ‘students of colour great distress’, to the high-profile resignation of a professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, reportedly in response to academic ‘cancel culture’. These disputes have not emerged from nowhere. They are the result of longer processes that have forced serious questions about the very place of music, and above all the Western classical