I don’t know what it is with government ministers and their continuing desire to wreck the education system of this country by dragging down everyone to the lowest common denominator. Not that they actually put it like that of course, they tend to use woolly terms such as inclusive and fairness, whilst forgetting that if you want to get the best out of a system then inclusive and fair don’t go with the territory. What politicians can’t seem to admit is that equality for all doesn’t mean all are equal, simply that everyone has an equal opportunity.

It should also mean that the highest education establishments in the land should remain exclusive, only taking the brightest and best…


Elite universities such as Oxford and Cambridge should expand to prevent the annual scramble for places at the most sought-after institutions, the higher education minister David Willetts has said.
More undergraduate places need to be created at “heavily oversubscribed” universities to enable thousands of bright teenagers to attend, according to David Willetts.
He said vice-chancellors should take advantage of Government reforms designed to give universities in England more freedom to recruit students with the best A-level grades.
Some leading institutions, including Oxbridge, have resisted pressure to expand amid fears over crowded seminars and the cost of subsiding extra students.
But in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Willetts called on the most popular institutions to “find ways in which they can finance growth in the number of undergraduates” to give more young people the “opportunity to go to a prestigious university”.

The fact that they are heavily oversubscribed is actually a good thing, it means they can be picky and choosy about who they take, they can get the very best and produce the next generation of those who will (supposedly) lead the way.

Now unlike a lot of people, I want higher education (at university level) to be only for the very best we can produce and I was never in favour of the idiot New Labour scheme of trying to get 50% of school leavers onto a university course (and saddling them with mountains of debt for the privilege) I still firmly believe that university places should only go to the top 10% of school leavers and that anyone else who wants a higher education can opt for open university or night school. As it is we’ve ended up with some universities having to literally re-educate entrants with the basics of reading, writing and maths before they can do anything else with them. A plethora of pretend degrees hasn’t helped either, flower arranging or The Beatles influences on 70’s pop culture isn’t really anything an employer might be looking for save in very limited circumstances and strikes me as somewhat on the lines of an obsessional hobby. Yes it might prove you can study, but says very little else about you.

We need to get back to elitism in education, where only the best can progress. There needs to be a system where there are winners and losers, not a system with places for all, particularly at the pinnacle of of the system.

David Willetts looks set to condemn yet another generation to the equivalent of a watered down education and this simply cannot go on…

7 comments for “Elitism

  1. Greg Tingey
    August 16, 2012 at 9:27 am

    Even then it doesn’t work.
    My wife works for a (Biggish – top20) Accountancy practice.
    They’ve had to institute basic (about “O”-level) maths+English comprehension tests that INVOLVE JUDGEMENT on all lower-level (i.e. not passed higher accountancy/tax exams) potential entrants.
    Six months back, they took on an acquantance of ours, female, aged lat 50’s not worked for 25+ years in payroll – she walked it.
    Two wweks ago, they had 7 entrants for junior tax dept posts, all recent “graduates”.
    One found a job elsewhere, 5 FAILED, the lass who passed had her primary/secondary education in N Ireland, and her degree was from Heriot-Watt – she walked it.
    ‘Nuff said?

  2. ivan
    August 16, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Any improvement in education has to start from primary school and progress from there.

    The 11+ was an excellent method of defining attainment at the end of primary school that started the sorting of those with academic ability from those with technical skills.

    For some reason, maybe pretensions of grandeur, labor decided that you couldn’t divide children that way and all must have prizes – result, the watered down degraded mess we have today.

    There are two things holding back improvement, the brainwashed labor loving teachers – starting in the training colleges – and the total lack of political will to see it happen – just look at what Gove has to face even thinking about doing something.

    Just one last thing, Greg, it is good to see other companies are taking the bull by the horns and doing something to maintain standards. One of my last jobs before retrying was to produce an examination that a large engineering company could give to job applicants to sort out those with ability from those without. We found that over 70% of those with degrees were useless, even for sweeping the floor.

    • August 16, 2012 at 12:37 pm

      The problem with the 11+ was that it was starting the sorting process at the wrong time for many. I failed it, yet subsequently did very well in academic subjects. I wasn’t alone in this by any means. At 11 years old, I was piss-poor at mathematics and remained so for the next three years or so, improving dramatically during my late secondary education.

      Given my experience, I tend to eschew the 11+ as a method of sorting.

      • ivan
        August 16, 2012 at 1:31 pm

        It was the start of the process but not the end.

        I well remember gaining several pupils at my technical high school at the age of 14 and the fact they had a lot of work to catch up on considering the school consistently got better O and A level results than the local grammar and girls high.

        We also had a few pupils that technically failed the 11+ – they were borderline – but were put in our school on the recommendation of the primary head master. I also knew a couple of girls that went to the girls high the same way so it wasn’t all bad in my day, late 40s early 50s.

        I think a lot depends on the type of secondary school available and the quality of the primary school its self.

        • August 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm

          We didn’t have that opportunity, unfortunately – I was about ten years behind you. That said, the school I went to was one of the better secondary moderns. By the end of my secondary education, we had moved to north Wales – and wasn’t that a clusterfuck as far as my education was considered…

  3. August 16, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Am quoting you in the 11 a.m. post.

  4. Voice of Reason
    August 17, 2012 at 3:57 am

    My observation is that modern managers and politicians will do anything to avoid making actual decisions, in case they get stuck with the blame.

    Thus, when forced to decide between an idea which is shown to be successful, and one which has failed elsewhere, they will always pick the latter. It it succeeds, they get the glory. If it fails, they can point out that it was expected.

    Britain had a superb grammar school and university system, which was brutal, but worked.

    The US had many more going to higher education, with lots of remediation and useless degrees. Clearly, this is the model to copy.

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