Academic Apartheid?

Last week, the Education Guardian published an article by Polly Curtis which talked about ‘segregation’ in British Universities. Into this waded Trevor Phillips, never a man to miss an opportunity to throw some incongruous non sequiturs into the mix. Much of Phillips’ argument particularly boiled down to the fact that he believed that there may be some instiutional racism at large in the UK.

To be honest, given the amount of equal ops training [or neurolinguistic programming?] going on in the sector in recent years, this doesn’t seem too credible. Not only that, but much of this is argument is constructed from analysing data that say things like, “Well, Greenwich has around 60% ethnic minority student base, while Oxbridge has very few”. Did that come as a shock? No, I didn’t think so. Maybe I’m being dim here, but are we just missing the blindingly obvious economic factors here? It seems there is some sort of agenda to extrapolate the data to reach the race conclusion. Not that Trevor has a well-paid position to justify or anything, oh heavens no [slaps wrist for daring to display such unpatriotic cynicism].

The data seemed to me to suggest not a problem with universites per se, but with other, more pressing (and uncomfortable) issues. The number of ethnic students at Oxbridge (and also Russell Group universities) may be low, but that may be a result of the ratio of state/public school students in that part ofd the sector, while newer universites like Greenwich sit in poorer areas with high ethnic populations. Those who go to university are going to be constrained by price and are likely to go to local institutions. Not only that, but the higher levels of mature student participation may also be a factor here.

The proportions of specific groups in some institutions may even be down to things like the presence of medical and law schools, which may be seen as more professional (and stable) options for some students, encouraged and funded by their parents.

Fee regimes and social aspirations and conditions, including at schools, seems to me to be rather higher on the agenda than the invidious insinuation of a racist undercurrent in admissions
within the universities.

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