Thursday, 13 August 2009

The Wheels Are Coming Off...

Lord Mandelson wants leading universities to follow St George's Medical School and Leeds University's example of accepting poorer students with lower A levels. While this will be good for the colleges' widening participation statistics, it may not be so great for the students themselves.
You mean, yet another government exercise in meddling and social engineering that does more harm than good?
Deprived students with lower A level results are unlikely to have experienced the academic standards that would help them shine at a top university.
Then they shouldn’t be there, should they?

But we all know why they are.
Nor will they have the models of personal organisation – managing time, resources, emotions and stamina for desired results – that children from better-off backgrounds benefit from, both through nurture and the norms at their high-productivity schools.
So, wouldn’t you be better off trying to inculcate those values and standards in the primary and secondary schools?

Nah, that’s obviously crazy talk…
Without catch-up classes and mentoring in high-level study skills, how will these "lucky" students hold their own with the entrants who form top universities' usual intake?
Some won’t. That’s life.
Greenwich University's researcher on Aimhigher, the government programme to increase university access, David Chilosi, admits as much: "The top universities hardly represent the typical destination of the participants to the programme, and it is our ethical duty not to create expectations that cannot be fulfilled."
Then don’t give in to the government and take on people who are not suited to university, David. Simples!
But the hopeful students they let in under "special dispensation" should not be left to their own devices. Instead of pretending that being in the same queue at freshers' week as their turbo-educated peers instantly puts disadvantaged entrants on a lifetime level-footing, universities need to be clear about the task ahead of students from these backgrounds.
Because your Lord and Master Mandelson has decreed that this will be so, and therefore someone has to make it so.

The obvious target is the universities themselves, who if they just worked a little harder, could make silk purses out of sow’s ears…
Colleges that are genuinely committed to transforming the chances of the poorest students will not limit their oversight to academic support and seeing their proteges audition for drama society or run for student union office: they will also enhance their post-university future.
You can see what’s coming, can’t you?
Growing up in a low-income household, it's possible that the first high-status professionals you meet will be your university lecturers. So it is essential academic staff take on responsibility for arranging networking and internships.
Yes, they’ve got to be given extra help and support because some of them are round pegs that may not suited to the square holes that, by god, the progressives are determined to cram them in…
Universities are doing disadvantaged young people a disservice if they give the impression that the working world will make allowances for them because of their poor start.
And you plan to do this by….making allowances for them in higher education?



roym said...

yeah, having worked at so called "top" universities i can see what your on about here. especially with the resources devoted to catch-up classes. still once all that is out of the way in the first 6 months or so, some of these kids can really fly. thats not so bad is it? especially when you see some johnny come lately flouncing around campus without a shred of ambition

Constantly Furious said...

Exactly: madness.

I wrote about this a couple of days ago, and the quote I used, the quote that sums up this whole woefully inept plan was from the 'Head of Widening Participation' at St Georges:

"Treating everyone the same way is not appropriate and not equitable".

Says it all, really..

Oldrightie said...

On leaving University with three firsts and honours, Jimmy set about his first surgical procedure, the very next day. With a chain saw.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Complete and utter knobheads.

I saw a nice statistic recently that said kids from comprehensives did slightly better at Uni (about a third or a half of a grade better) that kids from grammar schools with the same A Level grades, which is sort of what you'd expect.

So assuming that Uni admissions people aren't completely daft (query whether this is true), they would adjust for this anyway, assuming that Uni's want to maximise the average degree grades of their students (big assumption on my part).

For example, faced with a choice of a comprehensive kid with A-A-B and a grammar school kid with A-A-A, a Uni may well prefer the comprehensive kid.

JuliaM said...

"...still once all that is out of the way in the first 6 months or so, some of these kids can really fly. thats not so bad is it?"

And when they get to their first job and find that there's no one to hold their hand and make allowances for them?

"Says it all, really.."

Indeed. 'Hmmm, equality isn't working.' 'I know, let's try not-equality!'

"With a chain saw."


"...assuming that Uni's want to maximise the average degree grades of their students (big assumption on my part)."

Well, it will be, because they are judged on results; at least, until NuLab find some way of cocking that up too...

David Gillies said...

I saw the baleful results of letting the cut-off point for tertiary education slip lo these fifteen years ago. Instead of bright, motivated, articulate students who were at least marginally educable, we were saddled with a group of mongs so thick that by comparison pigshit had the viscosity of liquid helium. It was desperately unfair on the rump of students in the class who actually deserved to be there. Comprehensive education transferred to the university system was a grisly sight.