My last blog post before I disappeared away for a week was on the DISGRACEFUL lack of resource allocated to the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) in ensuring that Universities who are charging over £6000 in tuition fees improve their access performance to all sectors of society.
For those who can’t be bothered to read it, here’s an arresting fact: If each of the Oxford Colleges who take undergraduates (I understand that’s 35) are allocated an ‘equal’ share of the University of Oxfords’ allocation of time (each English university would get 150 minutes of examination on a pro rata basis), then I calculate the Chief Exec of OFFA will spend the sum total of 243 seconds ensuring each college has a ‘robust’ programme in place to guarantee free access for all. Oh yes, very robust. And no one's come back to me to tell me those figures are wrong...
Anyway David Cameron has done the decent thing and pointed out one area where access is not working - the appallingly low number of black students offered places at Oxford, and various parts of the media have followed up with the facts and pieces since (not all of them have credited David Lammy with the original excellent research in exposing all this).
One of the most interesting observations however is from Mark Pack’s blog, who points out :
“The actual number of black students accepted to Oxford and Cambridge is – at 50 – lower than the number it would be if those universities were accepting the same proportion of black students as there are amongst those who get 3As at A-level.
That gap – between 50 and 65 – is, however, dwarfed by the much larger gap when you look instead at the proportion of people taking GCSEs who are black. If Oxbridge acceptances had the same proportion of blacks as GCSE exam sitters, there would be 219 acceptances each year, not 50. “
Now Mark makes the point that there should be some finger pointing at a school system that leads to young black people under performing at school – and he’s got a point.
But I’d make a different observation.
The fastest way to solve this unfair social differentiation would be to weight A level performance of an individual student against the overall performance of a school, to give students who do well at poorly performing schools more of an edge.
A policy I have seen mooted by both Simon Hughes and David Willetts.
Let’s hope they do a bit more than mooting though.