Thursday, 6 March 2014

Reply to a review of Collini's: What Are Universities For?

THE GOVERNMENT wanted the growth - not academics and certainly not Oxbridge. But do you want an unequal world with a self-replicating Oxbridge elite that runs the country? Do you want any egalitarian changes? Do you want to return to Downton Abbey? If not then you have to provide access. It could be selective and remain at 6% but then you have to remove the social background factors that lead to public schools dominating the places because of their coaching. 

Francis Galton was father of eugenics but he also discovered something else - the law of regression. This is an absolute law. It means if I am cleverer than average my children are likely to be closer to the average than I am. Conversely if I am dumber than average then my children are likely to be cleverer and closer to the mean. This applies to most human properties - height, intelligence, ability in business etc. So inheritance of privilege and access is actually a CATASTROPHIC waste of real potential. The Robbins report said that university should be for all that can benefit and as Collini says why should we think that 45% or 50% can benefit? But why should we think that those who get the most opportunity of getting to university under the old selection criteria are the best and most likely to benefit? 

That is the challenge we face. So the money and expansion is a diversion to deal with the chip on shoulder "taxpayers" who are not graduates who seem to think that university is a three year skive of partying (only for the Bullingdon toffs). It also assumes that academics are with their heads in the clouds "weighing rainbows" (this was Swift's attack on them in Laputa). The truth is that like roads and museums universities are a social good and we should pay for them and university funding should not be afraid of the demon taxpayer. So if you can find a better way of making sure the people who really should go to university can do then you can challenge Collini's views. For me the best solution is a graduate tax for all graduates - not future but past. Oddly the politicians who are mostly university graduates who had their education paid for by fees, and who could claim unemployment benefit during their vacations and who really did live the life of the lazy student did not see it this way.

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