Access to private schools/Can you buy a place?

(67 Posts)
pithy Sat 19-Jan-13 18:35:11

You will pay fees, if not on a bursary. However, it is often suspected that the most academic schools will discretely ignore mediocre entry test scores for those whose parents' face fits in terms of wealth/contacts/influence. Any teachers willing to spill the beans?

Mintyy Sat 19-Jan-13 18:36:50

You need to be a member of the Royal Family?

Everyone buys a place at a private school wink

diabolo Sat 19-Jan-13 18:55:25

I disagree. Any remotely selective school will require a DC to pass an entrance examination (even if the % score to pass is 50%), unless you excel at hockey, rugby, tennis etc.

There are some non-selective independent schools, and I am sure if you are the Beckham's DC's then yes, you might get a place at a selective even if you don't pass CE, but I know of children who have failed CE 13+ and gone off to local state schools as they can't get in to the school of their parents choice (even though said parents could well pay the fees and more besides).

trinity0097 Sat 19-Jan-13 18:59:01

I've taught a child recently who was rejected from a leading public school, which his grandfather and father had both attended and who could pay the fees. But likewise I know of a leading public school who bent their usual strict admissions criteria to take on a child of a wealthy family, and at short notice (I.e. 2 weeks before CE was sat!).

GinandJag Sat 19-Jan-13 19:43:59

There will be some discretion for borderline candidates (for example, for a narrowingly missing candidates who have siblings in school), but in general, schools will work to their published policies.

MsAverage Sat 19-Jan-13 20:35:22

Do they actually write in published policies that the best exam performers are those who will be taken? I thought they say rather vaguely about "selected on the basis of the examination results and an interview", which may mean whatever you want. Headteachers on the open evening were saying "If a girl belongs to the school, she will get a place".

marriedinwhite Sat 19-Jan-13 20:45:39

I don't think it goes on at the top London schools. Convinced it's entrance exam - know some blindingly rich families who have had a younger boy rejected. The really high performing schools are not for the faint hearted and most families realise they would be wrong for their children.

happygardening Sat 19-Jan-13 20:57:07

My DS's friend didnt get offered a place at Eton even though the brother father uncle grand father and uncle Tom Cobbley went they also have lots of money and influence. Many top highly selective schools are so over subscribed they can choose the best of the best and also as many offer generous bursaries money ie parental wealth does not have to be the first consideration.

Copthallresident Sat 19-Jan-13 21:34:53

I do know that a scion of the Goldsmiths (only a cousin) was able to get their pick of the South West London preps, regardless of waiting lists, when they moved up to London. Jemima's alma mater a bit put our when not chosen . However no proof the same goes on in the selection process for secondary.Mary Portas was roaming the campus of Latymer as if she owned it prior to the 500 applicants for 50 places sixth form selection. Would be interested to know if she is actually now a parent.

happygardening Sat 19-Jan-13 21:51:49

I think prep schools are slightly different and even the most oversubscribed have vacancies at various times and can find a space for the "right family".

corlan Sat 19-Jan-13 23:20:04

My neighbour attempted what could have been construed as a bit of bribery to get her son into a very academic independent school. (He is very bright but did not score highly enough on the entrance test)

She was turned down flat.

GW297 Sat 19-Jan-13 23:34:25

Money talks.

horsemadmom Sun 20-Jan-13 02:14:56

Mary Portas is not a Latymer parent. She just looks super confident but is actually very nice.

arghhhmiddleage Sun 20-Jan-13 02:53:34

Exam results are the lifeblood of academic secondary schools. They are published, that is what parents are paying for. It seems unlikely they would risk their percentages by taking a pupil who may pull their results down carefully ignoring the obvious absence of dichotomy here This may not be such an issue at prep.

Mominatrix Sun 20-Jan-13 08:36:54

Agree that it probably does go on at the Prep level but would be very difficult to do at the highly selective secondary level (even at the ultra competitive preps). The pace and level at those schools would make it a misery for those children who were not academically capable.

MsAverage Sun 20-Jan-13 09:09:30

I would say exams are in place to a) screen totally incapable applicants, b) make a right impression of desirability: even undersubscribed schools organise exams. Then "moderate to good" children are looked at from the personality perspective (it was many times said here that StPauls girls are kind of from the same stock) and other factors are considered (for example, City of London shamelessly had "Is the child from a single parent family?" question on the first page of the application form).

lainiekazan Sun 20-Jan-13 12:59:33

Private schools are businesses. The way some people on MN talk you'd think that every second kid is on a generous bursary and they are truly charitable institutions. You only have to see the number of wealthy Russian and Chinese students at many schools to know that a parent's fat wallet sets the bursar's eyes spinning to three bell fruits.

exexpat Sun 20-Jan-13 13:09:44

Schools have to tread a very fine line. The ones with the best reputations can afford to turn down anyone who doesn't meet the high academic standards, but others further down the pecking order may be tempted to lower their standards to keep the school full.

But that can have repercussions: if they take too many rich children whose academic performance is likely to be low, their exam results go down and they get fewer applications from bright families, so have to take more rich, unacademic kids etc in a downwards spiral. And eventually their results go down so far that the rich families wonder what they are paying for and pull out too. I've seen that happen with a few schools near me.

lisad123everybodydancenow Sun 20-Jan-13 13:12:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AuntieStella Sun 20-Jan-13 13:14:58

Some schools, such as the Harrodian, are quite open that they have a standard pass mark for entry (I'm thinking CE), but will accept lower for children they really want (sporty types, from the context). So I think there are schools that might decide to exercise flexibility.

Highly unlikely for the very academic schools, though.

pithy Sun 20-Jan-13 14:23:43

I wonder what happens around the cut-off points in the exams for highly competitive schools. Exceptional children, the top one per cent, will stand apart. But what about those who just scrape in, and the DCs who miss the target level by one or two marks - many DCs fall into this category in the tutor intensive south east. Most parents are realistic about their DC's prospects. They get feedback from schools and tutors. I would guess that, prior to the test, 90 per cent will be in the top fifth of the bell curve for academic achievement. Do these DC get ranked strictly on exam scores. And if they do, why don't the schools publish the results? It all seems rather opaque. As MsAverage implies: there seems to be lots of wriggle room.

Copthallresident Sun 20-Jan-13 14:54:09

Pithy I think that for the very selective private schools it is rarely a horse race with first past the post IYSWIM. They want to find the most able but ability is multi dimensional and they wouldn't go to the trouble of having an admissions process that tries to give them a picture of the whole child; with questions designed to test ability as well as attainment, literacy and numeracy, references and interviews to give them an idea of personality, interests etc. even auditions to identify musical talent. When both my daughters got into a very academic school I rang up to make sure they hadn't "just scraped in" and on both occasions it was made clear to me that that wasn't how they assessed a child and in fact my DDs had got in on the basis of entirely different talents, they had built up an accurate picture of them both, and of their strengths and weaknesses. At the end of the day they were seeking to identify who would best take advantage of what they had to offer and succeed at the school.

They have a level of attainment they feel is the minimum they can build on. St Pauls admitted to me that they set that bar quite high because they don't want to have to waste time bringing girls up to speed. which is why they tend to get girls from a similar background, since that discriminates against state and overseas schools, it's a few years ago now but they showed no qualms about it. However over and above that level of attainment it is a much more subjective process.

horsemadmom Sun 20-Jan-13 16:10:19

Correction- Forgot that Mary Portas has a boy too. Coulda been her.

marquesas Sun 20-Jan-13 16:19:20

Surely a private school can amdit whomever they choose for whatever reasons they choose and similarly turn away anyone they don't want.

I know the schools local to me don't publish any kind of admission rules and tbh I don't see why they should, they are self funding and can set their own criteria.

OP - are you trying to buy a place or are you objecting to others who do so?

Abra1d Sun 20-Jan-13 16:23:20

Decent very academic schools don't do this. It is horrible being at a school like this if you are not bright and in lower sets for everything, very stressful and soul-destroying. Often children who just aren't able to keep going at the pace drop out a few years in. I don't think my children's schools would do this and to be honest, they don't need to. There are enough bright children out there and with a few good bursaries they can offer places to some pupils who wouldn't otherwise be there. I know several like this in each of my kids' years.

Copthallresident Sun 20-Jan-13 16:31:30

horsemadmom She was there with her daughter looking round at the sixth form open evening. I don't doubt she is nice but both Mary and daughter were walking around and interacting with staff as if their presence was a privilege. We weren't the only ones to comment. With 500 applications for 50 places I just wondered if they had ended up there.

Mominatrix Sun 20-Jan-13 16:53:46

Lainiekazan, you do know that money and brains are not mutually exclusive. Those rich Chinese and Russians just might also be very bright. There are many very wealthy boys at my sons's school. Believe it or not, they are also extremely able academically as well as in other things.

interest Sun 20-Jan-13 16:55:03

A couple of boys with very rich parents (one with royal connections) recently tried and failed to get into the top couple of London day schools, plus Eton and Harrow, so I doubt you can "buy" a place at these.

eminemmerdale Sun 20-Jan-13 17:29:42

William and Harry? I may be being facetious, but did they really have to take Eton's entrance test?

pithy Sun 20-Jan-13 18:00:05

I'm interested, from a social justice point of view, in just how scrupulous these institutions really are! Many are charities, with commensurate tax breaks, and thus paint an image of genteel virtuosity. Glossy brochures promote fair play - both on the field and off grin Plus, alumni take up a disproportionate number of RG places.

GinandJag Sun 20-Jan-13 18:08:53

I'm not getting what your problem is, pithy.

stealthsquiggle Sun 20-Jan-13 18:24:31

pithy - it's a private school. Why do they have to be scrupulously fair and transparent? It's a business and if they are oversubscribed then surely they can pick on any basis they damned well like, however arbitrary?

Nickmom Sun 20-Jan-13 18:44:27

Having worked in the admissions office of arguable the most difficult school to get a place at, I can tell you that money for bursaries does not grow on trees. Building expansions and improvements have to be funded. Therefore, all classes are structured to include parents who will help fund this. If it can usually be done without compromising academic standards. Rich people may have smart children and if not they can hire lots of tutors!

Copthallresident Sun 20-Jan-13 19:31:00

Sounds as if, like all businesses, some are more ethical than others. Certainly at DDs the underachievers were not especially the wealthy. In fact only moan I heard was a girl who annoyingly dominated classes asking for repeated explanations that the rest didn't need, but then she was a national team player. DD most put out another GB team member got into Yale, though far from top of class, but then I pointed out she too could have sacrificed the rest of her life to training.

TalkinPeace2 Sun 20-Jan-13 20:13:46

Sorry, but why does it matter?
You are paying a fortune to give your kids isolated schooling that is only available to the richest 10%
so if the richest 1% push in front of you but your kids still get in what is the fuss?

one of DDs friends has moved from the comp to private and describes it as boring and narrow. She says there is no colour and fun and hopes that her parents will let her move back to the comp.
Whichever school she goes to her path is towards a PhD

Copthallresident Sun 20-Jan-13 21:57:08

Talkinpeace2 Would have loved to send my DDs to a comp with colour and fun but the only place locally with places for DDs was definitely not described in those terms by Ofsted, whilst the private options most definitely do have colour and fun and stimulation. I would say around a third of parents at DDs' school were there because there wasn't a state alternative that Ofsted rated even satisfactory, certainly they are not in the richest 10%, a lot have really stretched themselves because they have clever DCs and 10 % are on bursaries anyway. There is also a wide ethnic mix and plenty of DCs from / raised in other cultures. You make your choice of school based on what best suits your DC and your family and for many of us ethics are important, so it does matter.

TalkinPeace2 Sun 20-Jan-13 22:30:51

My ethics are not the issue, my earning potential utterly rules out fee paying school.
And those who feel affronted by the uber rich nicking their good education (I'm afraid) are just getting a teeny dose of what the other 90% feel.
I'd LOVE to have my kids not educated with thick chavs, but its not an option.

Yes, schools look at the size of wallets, as do Universities

Copthallresident Mon 21-Jan-13 00:15:51

I wouldn't have the slightest problem with my DCs being educated with thick chavs/ the rest of the society that they are going to live and work amongst. I actually see that lack of social mix in their school as the gap in their education. Of course we should have an education system where every DC gets a place in a school that is rated good by Ofsted and provides an acceptable level of education, I am angry that our local politicians have failed to provide that and that is why I am an active member of a local pressure group that seeks to highlight their poor planning and strategies, which frankly have fallen short ethically. No part of society should be exempt from acting ethically, especially as private schools do benefit from privileges granted them by the rest of society .

Copthallresident Mon 21-Jan-13 00:33:30

The St Hughs case was a postgrad course, and not funded by government. It was unfair but then a lot of postgrad students do drop out because they struggle to pay fees and living costs. I don't personally think that a postgrads financial planning should be subject to scrutiny by the university but at the end of the day it is a private contract between student and university.

Where government funding is involved then universities are held accountable for admissions policies that are fair and for having in place strategies for widening access . I am an academic and we know that where we have taken contextual information into account to allow for deprivation, and other setbacks that students perform or have had effective outreach to encourage applications from candidates who might not otherwise apply that they do outperform other students so there is still a way to go but it is not for want of effort to try and overcome the complex reasons why some parts of our society are underrepresented in our universities. There is certainly no part of the ucas admissions process that would give us any indication of whether a candidate came from a wealthy family.

MsAverage Mon 21-Jan-13 08:28:08

Copthall, in real life people build up relationships based on common interests and general similarities. If you are a programmer, probably, you will have more in common with people in IT department rather than with a flamboyant sales team. If not, it means that CTO and HR officers did not do their job right at the recruiting. If you are working hard, it is unlikely that you will have loads of long-term unemployed friends.

School is a unique institution which gathers people involuntarily on the basis of a very formal and non-personal criteria: age and place of living. I do not see why social mix (which I am avoiding by seeking for friends like me and working for companies I like) should be pleasant and benefiting for my child if it is not pleasant or benefiting for me.

pithy Mon 21-Jan-13 11:14:44

The Oxford case is interesting TalkinPeace. In the US, it is not unusual at Ivy League undergrad level, for the DCs of wealthy donors to be admitted with lower SAT scores. Such DC of the rich are known as "legacy" students.
The above article in the Wall Street Journal, on the prospects of well connected Groton Grads (Groton is an elite, New England school) should alarm us all. It basically says that students with near perfect SATs are being rejected in favour of richer and other minority groups.
The piece is ten years old, so the practise could be more prevalent now. And they say Britain lags popular US customs by around a decade.

Copthallresident Mon 21-Jan-13 13:32:57

MsAverage as an academic who studies other cultures I think empathy and the ability to understand other people's perspectives and see beyond the stereotypes is one of the most valuable qualities we can develop in our children. Those are the qualities that will enable our children to contribute to solving the problems facing society and the world, not to mention put the Daily Mail out of business. My DC s did get fed up with encountering narrow minded attitudes in their peers, that for instance couldn't appreciate that their private school gave them an advantage over their peers in a failing school down the road. Thankfully their school that as an issue too, and had strategies to address it, mentoring schemes, shared activities, training, revision classes etc. DDs both learnt a lot from these activities. I have no idea how you live but if it is in a selfmade bubble I suggest you get out more, you might find the rest of the world are not as unpleasant as you think.

Copthallresident Mon 21-Jan-13 13:58:44

pithy From what I have seen and heard of the undergraduate admissions process, at Oxbridge as well as Russell Group there is simply no room in the strategies for widening access for these sorts of arrangements. What unis are seeking are the students who will do best on their course , so it is actually true that the process is less forgiving for those from a private school background, albeit the playing field is still not entirely level for the disadvantaged. However that is because there is still not enough being done in schools to encourage bright pupils and equip them to apply. That is where the focus is. This exposes the process at Cambridge

This appears to be a debate based on emotion and prejudice rather than any sort of knowledge. It is beyond me how you can extrapolate from a system engrained in the American Ivy League , always subject to the free market, to a system that has a very different social context. Even the current government has not abandoned the university system entirely to the Free Market. Postgrads are a little different as for some time universities have used them as something of a moneymaking opportunity, since very few are studying subjects that will be of benefit to society and therefore get funding , rather than themselves. I speak as someone who has funded herself through two Masters, in the 80s and noughties, you were never under any illusions that you were anything but a cash cow.

lainiekazan Mon 21-Jan-13 14:02:33

People on MN often extoll the virtues of "mixing with other cultures" and learning to get on with all and how ethnically diverse their dc's private school is. What they really mean is that it's ok to rub shoulders with ds of cardiologist who happens to be Indian whilst avoiding chavs in monocultural comprehensive.

marriedinwhite Mon 21-Jan-13 14:07:26

Got it in one *lainiekazan*. Removed dd from top 100 comp after two years because the chavs were so foul and nothing was done about their behaviour. I wouldn't chose to mix with people like that socially and I certainly wouldn't employ them - if I did they would be disciplined and through the revolving doors as quickly as possible. Couldn't see any reason at all why my dd should have to put up with at school.

Miggsie Mon 21-Jan-13 14:08:36

I know someone who spoke of "influence" who couldn't get his child into their school of choice.
I know someone whose child passed the very high entrance test but said cild was later asked to leave as they didn't like the child's attitude - even though they were the cleverest in the school by a long way.
I know a headmaster who selects primarily on interview - the academic tests do not guarantee a place even if you achieve the nominal pass mark
I have been told that my DD will have "no trouble" getting into a certain 6th form - we were not discussing the academic side here.
I know a school where the head is obsessed with scholarships - only the brightest are wanted there - any child who might have a personality of their own has no chance to shine.

I also know my brother has pulled strings to get his friends children and his own into certain universities - as he knows the lecturers in charge of the departments. I think it may be worse at uni because if you get 200 students all predicted A* and forms all filled in pretty much the same and only a short interview to decide then probably a personal recommendation that X will work hard and is motivated will make the university's life easier in the long run.

pithy Mon 21-Jan-13 14:52:27

Where is the prejudice in wishing society to be more meritocratic? I am simply trying to ascertain whether access to elite educational establishments, is fair and without prejudice! Please give examples of affect and prejudice in any of the above.
Our current government has appointed an access tzar to our top universities, so feels the subject is worthy of scrutiny. Acres of newsprint is devoted to the topic. A transparent and accessible education system is central to the democratic process, and of interest to many people, don't you think?

loveyouradvice Mon 21-Jan-13 15:38:28

I think there is a "fudge" line here... they have discretion to admit who they want ... if highly academic, they know someone unacademic would not flourish there and dont take them... but we all know that there are a fair number just above and below the line (which is a mix of exam/interview/head's ref/general feel/siblings/etc)... and I have know a couple of instances where someone just below the line was nudged above it because of influence.... to a highly selective London girls school.

That said, I believe they should be accountable as they are run as "charities" and are therefore subsidised by taxpayers money ... so are not a law unto their own...

And do remember they all say they are looking for those with most "promise/ability" and pride themselves on weeding out overtutored kids... which gives them masses of wiggle room!

Copthallresident Mon 21-Jan-13 15:44:54

marriedinwhite I could repeat your paragraph almost word for word except my DD2 left for other sixth forms with 25% of her year and it was a private school that often features in the top 10 and they weren't chavs. Being at a private school doesn't necessarily mean all DCs have benefited from good parenting or not had traumatic lives. And bullying and bad behaviour by amoral attention seeking clever girls with terrible issues of their own to deal with is very hard to deal with. I could also quote DD1 after a week away with her cousins who live on a Council estate and attend a school in the bottom 100, possibly the bottom 10 (as one cousin said "I were reet good at Maths, I got a C") "I would much rather have spent a week with nice funny down to earth people like that than have to put up with some of the stuck up bitches at school who would look down on them" (and she was in a nice year). The issue of poor behaviour not being dealt with can be an issue in all schools. I don't doubt we bought privilege for our DDs in terms of a school focused on equipping them to do well in exams but that doesn't necessarily equate to an ideal education, or immunity from DCs with serious problems.

pithy I thought I had made it clear I do want a meritocratic system and an education system that doesn't tolerate huge differences in the quality of education on offer. The admissions Tsar is stepping in to a process that has been going on for years. Short of quotas unis are employing every strategy they can think of and pouring money into outreach etc. in order to level the playing field. I work with a mentoring charity that helps bright black west indian children to be provided with positive role models. All the universities are falling over themselves to help, not least because with the right support these DCs get firsts. However in London it can only scratch the surface of all the bright DCs in schools who are not given the right support, channelled into making the wrong exam choices, discouraged from applying to elite universities etc. Sadly acres of newsprint are given up to reinforcing prejudice and stereotypes and cashing in on the chips on people's shoulders, whether that is because they feel that private school pupils are being discriminated against or Universities are bastions of influence and priviledge. Did you read the link I posted, that is what is a fair picture of what goes on at Cambridge. How would you do that differently?

marriedinwhite Mon 21-Jan-13 15:48:55

If you are in London*Copthall* I can imagine the schools you are talking about and agree with you. We moved dd somewhere more holistic. She wouldn't have got into a top 10 indy anyway which is why we took a chance on the top 100 comp.

eminemmerdale Mon 21-Jan-13 15:49:41

Did anyone anaswer my question? Did the princes take the Eton entrance test do we expect?

Copthallresident Mon 21-Jan-13 16:07:43

I would add by way of another anecdote that DD now attends an elite uni, one that was actually established at the start of the 19th century to be inclusive. She loves that it is so mixed, and shares a flat with a complete social mix, there is a very posh one, two from northern comprehensives, one with a single parent, one mixed race, two on bursaries and scholarships and they are sharing for their third year and having a great time growing up together. It came as a shock to find so many clever hardworking and equally geeky Scientists on her course, and that includes those from overseas as well as state schools, it is relentless keeping up. If you were to say was it a true meritocracy she would laugh, you wouldn't survive very long if you weren't clever enough.

Copthallresident Mon 21-Jan-13 16:11:38

eminemmerdale Didn't Prince Harry come in for some flack in the Press for getting help with Art A level? / Gcse? I obviously thought, there you go, privilege, until mine got to sitting coursework and I spoke to some art teachers and discovered it wasn't unusual, or even bending the rules.... As I say acres of newsprint pandering to prejudice.

eminemmerdale Mon 21-Jan-13 16:17:57

I thought of this as happygardening mentioned 'minor royalty' and connected families not getting a place despite their wealth and connections.

IndridCold Mon 21-Jan-13 17:12:39

Who knows if the princes had to sit the entrance test - I would imagine not. However, the more I learn about Eton the more I think that it was probably the right place to send them.

In spite of the many prejudices people have about the place, it does try and instil in the boys a great sense of duty to pay back in kind the priviliged education they get there, by going out and doing something positive and useful in the world. As one former headmaster put it 'To whom much is given, much is expected'.

Possibly the school took the view that these boys are going to be important, whether they deserve it or not, and we might as well train them up as best we can. And while they are not perfect, I think that these two do a rather better job at giving back than some other princes I could mention!

TalkinPeace2 Mon 21-Jan-13 17:16:44

What about the children of top Chinese Communist Party officials (who seem to live under assumed name sin the west) - is it OK for the rules to be bent for them?

happygardening Mon 21-Jan-13 17:18:05

Eton has not always been as selective at it is now Im not sure when it changed but I suspect it was about 2000 would that have been after Prince William and Harry applied? Dont really follow them so have not got much idea how old they are.

happygardening Mon 21-Jan-13 17:20:06

Talkin are you assuming that "the children of top Chinese Communist Party officials" are not very bright but being accepted at Westminster and others?

TalkinPeace2 Mon 21-Jan-13 17:27:39

well its funny that ALL of them get into the schools of their choice ....
the lad at Harrow and Oxford (dad now disgraced) did not seem the brightest cookie.
(and the top dog's daughter at Harvard is under an assumed name)
Great for the UK's balance of trade though!

IndridCold Mon 21-Jan-13 17:35:15

happygardening no, I don't know either. I think they must have gone in the early 90s as William is about 30 now I think.

Bo Xilai's son went to Harrow, but that was a few years ago now, and his parents did end up in a fair old pile of trouble. I wouldn't imagine that many schools would bend their admission criteria for top Chinese communists though. There seem to be quite a few hugely wealthy Chinese wanting to send their children here, why not take the cleverest ones!

maisiejoe123 Mon 21-Jan-13 17:54:47

What a strange world we live in. The Chinese Communist Party sending their children to some of the most elitist schools in the world! Even in this country we have half the Labour gov sending or having attended grammar or private schools and then trying to ruining it for the rest of us..

Copthallresident Mon 21-Jan-13 17:57:58

*TalkinPeace" Are you particularly referring to the son of Bo Xilai, deposed leader in Chongqing, who has had the Daily Mail treatment, which alleged he got into Harrow and Oxford as a result of Neil Hayward, the "fixer" who his mother was subsequently convicted of poisoning, and from them on lived a "playboy" lifestyle? The Daily Mail version doesn't really stack up given that Neil Hayward scarcely seemed to live, or die an influential man and the son won a scholarship at Harrow and Oxford, which is hardly a sign that it was money that got him in. Nor have any corruption charges been proved against Bo Xilai, whether or not he was corrupt, it was his ambition and attempts to capitalise on a return to "redness" that led to his demise. It's a murky story and chinese justice being what it is we will probably never know the truth, but you can be absolutely sure the Daily Mail hasn't the slightest clue beyond picking up on the most scandalous of the gossip. There is certainly no proof that the son wasn't clever, his father, mother (a lawyer) and older brother undoubtedly were.

Entry to UK Boarding Schools from Hong Kong and China is highly competitive, the political Princelings have to compete with the economic ones . I do know some schools, Wycombe Abbey for one, value the connections they have with certain hot house schools favoured by the very wealthy. I suspect the top schools could actually fill themselves several times over with the children of wealthy chinese families, who are as clever if not more clever than their UK peers . Indeed non verbal reasoning test scores for Asians are on average statistically much higher than Europeans, that Asian pupils are good at Maths isn't actually a stereotype. The bar is probably higher rather than lower. Anecdote again but DDs very clever HK Chinese friend did not get into Wycombe but scored stratospherically in IB and is now at Warwick.

Or do you think we should be discriminating against the sons because of the sins of the fathers?

happygardening Mon 21-Jan-13 18:00:42

"and the top dog's daughter at Harvard is under an assumed name"
I'm not convinced that going under an assumed name is a sign of average/low intelligence. Neither is having a disgraced father and Harrow has never been obsessively selective. How do you know how bright this boy was for that matter how do we now how bright any one like him is? Just because you don't like what they stand for doesn't mean they're thick. I personally don't like Boris and his policies but I know he's not thick.

Copthallresident Mon 21-Jan-13 18:04:26

*maisiejoe123" Don't confuse the current dynasty of traditional rulers for Communists!! It is all about status and connections, that is how they got where they are and they do everything they need to get the same status for their families. It's called "Guanxi"

pithy Tue 22-Jan-13 12:11:50

Copthallresident Yes, it is true that the Ivies differ from UK, unis in that they are independent, relying on huge endowments- in Harvard's case around £19 billion. However, they do have access to government research funding, and are only what they are because there's a federal government, state sponsored system, that educates the vast majority.
Whilst slightly off-piste,blush I agree, I believe a reasonable sequitur from that discussion, is to consider the direction in which we may be heading in this country. And there are very vocal calls for us to follow the US model. Tuition fees are capped here - but for how long? And, Ivy style institutions, like the University of Buckingham, may initially look attractive to those bent on autonomy at any cost, but may exist to the detriment of fair access.
You asked how the Cambridge admissions' system might be improved? Well, I would suggest that we remove the ludicrous system of submitting predicted grades. Allow applicants to apply with their actual grades. I have it on good authority that a meeting of leading unis had agreed to this last year, only to be stymied by one leading institution which refused to sign-up.

Copthallresident Tue 22-Jan-13 14:35:10

The University of Buckingham has never acquired the kudos of Oxbridge, Russell and 1994 unis, and AC Graylings new private university is seen as an embarrassment by some of the big names who signed up when only 60 of the 180 places were taken up. Perhaps it will evolve into a niche that provides what some people want like Buckingham but they can't compete with universities with a more established reputation worldwide.

It is very hard to see what the future holds for the rest of our universities. Some parts of the Conservative Party may want a free market but they did not think through the consequences of the limited steps they took in that direction, increased fees and allowing unis to exceed their quotas to recruit those with AAB, as well as Gove throwing in a curved ball of grade deflation. The result was that some respected instititions took the biggest hit. Southampton and SOAS admitted to not being able to fill places but you can be sure that lots of the universities just underneath the very top rank also suffered and if it happens again this year there will be redundancies. It is rather typical of this government to put on a show of effecting change to try and placate the right wing without pushing it too far, (and appointing an admissions Tsar to placate the other wing, and as a result acting without having a long term vision and strategy, and having thought through the consequences. It would probably take a right wing government with a big majority to take us down the Ivy League route, and in this country we have a much stronger constituency that will want to see access continue to be widened, as well as it being fundamental to the ethos of many of our unis .

Of course our universities do compete in a free market, for overseas students, and they punch above their weight in terms of funding, up there and sometimes outgunning Ivy League unis.

I don't disagree with you on actual versus predicted grades but it is UCAS mainly who are querying the logistics. I am not sure it would widen access, it is often the schools who provide least support for the UCAS process that over predict, and the unis know who they are, some school references say more in the way they are written than they do in what they actually write!

IndridCold Tue 22-Jan-13 16:31:05

It does seem a complete mess brought about by the the political desire to get results quickly, rather than bring about a genuine improvement which takes too long (ie won't be available by the next election).

I'm not directly involved in teaching or university admissions, other than being good friends with someone who, until very recently, was head of department at a Russell Group university. His account of the near impossibility of selecting first year undergraduates are truly mind-boggling. He no longer has any faith in the UK state education system and resents having to put on classes to teach stuff that should have been covered at A-level. The upshot of all this is that last year over 40% of their first year intake were Chinese, because they pay and are a known quantity academically speaking.

I agree with Copthallresident that it's difficult to see where we are going to end up if things continue the way they are going.

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