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Private schools 'handicapped by university targets'

(264 Posts)
Sonatensatz Wed 03-Oct-12 11:07:47

Just read an article in the times commenting that new government targets for universities to take more pupils from state schools is putting those in private schools at a disadvantage, essentially because if their are two equal students the universities should prioritise the state schooled child with an addition that they should lower the grade boundaries for state schooled children. (sorry can't link it's behind the pay barrier)

The article got me thinking that surely the fairest way to select students for university would be to remove the requirement for them to put their school on the application form. Each student could be provided with a reference from their school or college on a standard form which didn't reveal the school on it. That way each pupil would be assessed on their merits and not on the type of school they went to.

Also if, as it seems part of the issue is the level of extra coaching private schooled children get to get them through the exams perhaps a scheme (supported by businesses or private schools as part of the requirement for them to benefit the wider community in order to gain charitable status) could be set up to identify the most talented disadvantaged youngsters from across the country and provide them with bursaries to access extra tuition.

What do others think?

tilder Wed 03-Oct-12 22:31:55

That is a bit of an unfair example. One of the main reason for dropping out is finance. Students from an affluent background do not have this problem.

OddBoots Wed 03-Oct-12 22:39:22

If there are enough pupils getting the top grades to get the desired places then it makes sense to select state comp pupils as "Pupils from comprehensive schools are likely to do better at university than children educated at private or grammar schools with similar A-level results, according to research carried out for the government and published today"

flatpackhamster Thu 04-Oct-12 08:40:45


flatpackhamster There is already social engineering going on and it is excluding people from higher education on the basis of the school they attend.

No, they're excluded on the basis of their A-level results. Which is as it should be.


State schools often do cut the mustard, I think a lot of them do fantastically well despite not being overly-funded and generally being entirely non-selective.

Lots of hedging there. 'Often', 'generally', etc. No, state schools are failing their pupils, both those at the bottom and those at the top.

No one is trying to exclude privately educated students from university, they just want to make sure a very small elite doesn't dominate some of them.

Why shouldn't the elite go to the best universities? Isn't that the point of elitism? Isn't the purpose to push the best as hard as you can?

You call it "vile, vicious socialist social engineering", I call it entirely desirable that certain universities do not become the preserve of the rich.

Well, naturally. I call it desirable that people can access a university on the basis of their exam results rather than on the basis of some Islington trendy's feelings.

dreamingofsun Thu 04-Oct-12 09:29:03

flatpack - i agree totally with your statement 'The scheme to exclude pupils from higher education on the basis of the school they attended is monstrous, vile, vicious socialist social engineering'.

why should my second son be excluded from uni because his state secondary school is inadequate? Why should only students who can afford decent teaching be allowed access to uni?

CommunistMoon Thu 04-Oct-12 09:41:25

Private schools have got a fucking cheek to complain about this. The Russell Group university I attended had privately-educated students asking if there were quotas for state-school students - this was back in 1993. There weren't, there aren't and that university's intake from private schools is even more disproportionate now than it was back then. Absolute whinging tossers.

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 09:48:17

God forbid that privately educated children be disadvantaged in any way...hmm

More state educate young people into the professions would be a great thing, I hope universities continue to show preference to state educated candidates, it can only be a good thing for this country.

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 09:50:03

And I am sure most privately educated pupils will manage a place a university, they will not be cast out into the wilderness.

gelo Thu 04-Oct-12 09:53:59

elportodelgato, SmellsLikeTeenStrop and Oddboots, it's actually not as clear cut as the research you refer to makes out.

Cambridge have done similar research and found that A level grades are the best predictor of degree success (except for maths where STEP and GCSE are better) and that this is independent of what type of school they are achieved at. So at Cambridge at least, a comprehensive student is not likely to perform any better than an independent or grammar student with the same grades.

The issue is tricky. What it depends on is to what extent deficiencies in earlier education can be made up for at university age. If you miss out on the best education as a youngster then if a university can 'bring you up to speed' then they do need to do a bit of positive discrimination. If they can't (which I suspect is at least partially true in many subjects and at the upper ability end - eg at Cambridge where the pace is so fast that to start out at a disadvantage may well prove irrecoverable), then universities need to treat applicants equally based on their grades.

MrsSalvoMontalbano Thu 04-Oct-12 09:57:34

It should not be the function of universities to make up for any deficiency is state school teaching - makes no sense. If state school students are being failed by pooere teaching, find out why and address that.

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 09:58:30

Discrimination is wrong. Universities should select pupils based on how intelligent and how well-prepared academically they are to perform on their chosen course. The onus should not be on universities to compensate for the failings of state education. It is the responsibility of schools to get their pupils ready for university.

Berry72 Thu 04-Oct-12 10:04:05

I find this kind of social engineering deeply depressing. As Bonsoir said, discrimination is wrong and universities shouldn't be expected to mop up the failings of the state education system.

Berry72 Thu 04-Oct-12 10:06:21

Anyway I was thinking about this last night and to be honest the fantastic education my daughter is receiving at her (non selective) independent is so superior to the local comprehensive that even if she doesn't get to Cambridge because they have to give place to the comprehensive students, it doesn't really matter! She'll do fantastically wherever she goes. I am certainly not panicking about it and moving her to the comp at 6th form.

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 10:08:05

I would have thought that some universities would be delighted to have an en masse sudden influx of Cambridge-standard privately-educated pupils and would be more than able to meet their needs. Like you, I am not particularly anxious.

whistlestopcafe Thu 04-Oct-12 10:13:07

If two students have identical results and equally good personal statements and the university has to choose between the two candidates it is only fair that they opt for the state school pupil.

I can't see why this is a concern for people.

Musomathsci Thu 04-Oct-12 10:23:29

Universities need to know where kids have been educated so that they can gauge how well they have done in the context of the education they have been offered. Anonymising everything would stop places like Cambridge looking at a sink state-school educated candidate with average grades who turns out to be a real original thinker at interview. They do take into account things like class sizes and a school's overall grade profile to look at how able an individual is.

Yes there are plenty of bright, able kids in the state sector, but maybe there are a higher proportion of bright, able kids in the private sector because their bright, able parents have well-paid jobs that allow them to educate their children privately. Go on, flame me! I came from a very ordinary background with no special privileges and worked very hard to get to uni and get myself a decent job. Did I choose to send my kids to the local comp? Hell no. Family holidays, fancy cars, cash to splash, no, but we've chosen to prioritise education over everything else. I know plenty of people who spend similar sums of money buying houses in the 'right' catchment areas for state schools to get a good education for their kids.

I'm sorry for the bright, able kids from poor backgrounds who have no family support, but I do believe that uni admissions tutors know their job on the whole, and can pick the winners from the pile.

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 10:59:42

"I find this kind of social engineering deeply depressing"

If privately educating your child isn't social engineering, I don't know what is...

And we as a family have chosen to prioritise paying our mortgage and eating over paying for private education. DP and I have higher degrees, we both work hard and believe our children should not lose out because we cannot afford to send our kids to the local private school.

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 11:13:43

You cannot "socially engineer" an individual child!

Berry72 Thu 04-Oct-12 11:16:32

I went to a comp and I went to Cambridge. I would have HATED to have gone under some sort of 'affirmative action' scheme! If anything it will just prove how superior the private school students are in terms of academia if they manage to get in at all.

Aboutlastnight Thu 04-Oct-12 11:42:48

Indeed Anna - so it's great that universities are taking into account an individual child's circumstances when considering their application, isn't it. smile

flatpackhamster Thu 04-Oct-12 11:55:09


If two students have identical results and equally good personal statements and the university has to choose between the two candidates it is only fair that they opt for the state school pupil.

I can't see why this is a concern for people.

Why is it 'fair' to select the state pupil over the private one? Where's the 'fairness' here?

You are creating a system which says to a privately educated child "Your abilities and effort are completely irrelevant. What matters is the school you went to."

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 12:01:44

But they aren't. The purpose of this exercise is not to help individuals, but to remove responsibility from the state education system for its failures. They are not going to examine a child, they are going to flag up social factors that are known to be failing.

wordfactory Thu 04-Oct-12 12:05:25

As the mother of two absurdly advantaged and independently educated DC, I am relaxed about the suggestion that DC from less advantaged backgrounds be given some small assistance.

It still won't make the system fair. My DC will still be absurdly advantaged. But it might help a bit.

However, I remain unconvinced that the most highly selective universities want to change anyhting much. They are perfectly content with their student body of intelligent, well educated students the fact that so many come from independent schools is of little anxiety to them.

Bonsoir Thu 04-Oct-12 12:08:09

IME, the more responsibility you remove from state schools for ensuring their pupils reach specific standards, the less responsibility the schools will take for doing so.

French teachers are notoriously lacking in any sense of responsibility towards their pupils, because if a pupil is not reaching the required standard a teacher may make him/her repeat the year. This is not the teacher's responsibility. Hence a massive (and costly) rate of redoublement.

If entrance requirements are lowered for pupils from state schools, those schools will have even less incentive to prepare their pupils adequately for examinations and university entrance.

wordfactory Thu 04-Oct-12 12:13:26

That's a fair point Bonsoir and goes to the heart of whether universities are looking for intelligent students or well educated/well prepared students.

My experience in universities is that they want both. Raw diamonds with high levels of intelligence who have not been well educated/well prepared, can be interesting but ultimately lecturers/tutors only have a limted amount oif time to offer. And many robust degrees require students to hit the ground running.

Interestingly, the courses with the highest number of independently educated DC have the lowest drop out rates. These courses also have high numbers of grammar students too (as opposed to comprehensivley educated DC).

wordfactory Thu 04-Oct-12 12:17:51

I suppose what I'm saying is that I do think universities should make room for the individual who really shows promise but perhaps had a difficult time in secondary education (I'm thinking of a young woman on the radio who was from a travelling fair ground community and attended schools sporadically).

However, I think once we start to work on quotas, the universities will refuse. You can't have the majority of students being raw diamonds, particularly on some of the most exacting courses.

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