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?