Oxbridge and Snobbery

Ebdon may have a point


Les Ebdon’s comments about snobbery in the choice of HE institutions prompted attacks from Lord Adonis and Nick Gibb this week. Did they have a point?

The idea that some pupils don’t want to go to Oxbridge seems to escape many who promote better access.  It is also true that the Sutton Trust ,certainly initially, seemed to imply that open access was  all about getting disadvantaged  pupils into Oxbridge. Their approach now,to be fair , is  much more inclusive.

There are plenty of pupils who want to study a particular course, which is not available in Oxbridge. Camilla Cavendish made a good point in the Times this week on this score. For what  its  worth, and I think long and hard before bringing my personal experience to bear on any issue, I didn’t  sit Oxbridge entrance because I wanted to study political violence and terrorism (sad, but true) and neither Oxford nor Cambridge offered any course that was  remotely relevant. I went  to Exeter, instead, and my tutor, a former general   was, at the time ,the leading expert in the UK on the subject  I  had no regrets, but I cant vouch for him! Cavendish, drawing from her personal experience,  in the Times on 5 December wrote ,interalia:

‘My niece has just finished at a sixth-form college where, along with a few other pupils, she decided to apply for Oxford after an academic from there came to visit. Five were offered a place but three of them decided not to go. When I asked why, they said they hadn’t been intimidated by the quads and spires but they preferred other courses. One wanted to do languages at Leeds because “it has the best reputation for translators”. The next preferred to read English at Glasgow because the syllabus was less prescriptive. Another wanted to go to Manchester inspired by Professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, the Nobel prize winners who discovered graphene there. They’d all made mature decisions, based on their passions and their potential rather than being swayed by pushy parents.

It is probably worth noting that, for the first time in living memory, the red bricked Manchester University has more Nobel Prize winners on its staff than either Oxford – which has none – or Cambridge, which has two.

Time for less snobbery?



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