Oxbridge goes flat

Middle-class students will be squeezed out, as Oxford and Cambridge Universities want to increase ‘deprived’ admissions, while keeping the overall number of students constant.

Let’s pull down those dreaming spires while we’re at it, shall we?

My immediate reaction is that they ought to rename their post-graduate degrees PD, to accommodate an influx of students who drop their aitches.

Such petty, vituperative snobbery aside, this gives me a warm feeling of nostalgia, for I grew up in a country where ideology overrode reason. That created a twilight zone of virtual reality, enforced as actual.

Or perhaps the feeling isn’t exactly warm, for I hated life there. Hence, when still a youngster, I flew like a moth towards the light of the West – only to be singed by the realisation that twilight descended there too.

An essential feature of it is rampant egalitarianism, the urge to flatten out human peaks and troughs so they all converge into an amorphous mass of mediocrity. It’s especially painful to observe this at two of the world’s most venerable universities, whose remit is to create intellectual elites.

They ignore that the world is organised vertically, not horizontally. This applies to every aspect of life: social, cultural, economic, intellectual, or moral.

Hierarchical pyramids exist, and they can only be truncated at the top. This is possible to do, what with the state wielding a whole set of hacksaws designed for that purpose. But the consequences of such an operation are invariably catastrophic.

Oxbridge seems to proceed from the assumption that most people, and all classes, are equally capable of academic attainment.

Hence, if they don’t achieve equally, social injustice is at work, which can be corrected by political or administrative action. If the lower classes are underrepresented in a student body, then this has to be put down either to discrimination or to poverty.

That’s simply not the case at a level of large numbers, and Oxbridge is talking strictly in numerical terms. No other considerations seem to apply.

Yet they are vital, and here I have to mention some hard truths that no mass publication would ever accept. For different classes do differ in academic ability.

These days we are expected to define class distinctions as variations in wealth only, with wealth seen as some random force majeure. Yet human factors are usually both the cause and function of wealth differences.

How did the middle classes earn their money in the first place? The answer is, by intelligence, drive and self-discipline.

Logically then, the poor lack such qualities, for if they didn’t they wouldn’t remain poor in an economy seldom short of opportunities. Once again, we are talking not individuals but averages here, which is never my preference where people are concerned.

But these are the terms chosen by Oxbridge, and just about every modern institution. None of them speaks about attracting outstanding or even deserving women and members of lower classes or ethnic minorities. Percentages are all that matters.

Alas, when a family has consecutive generations of underachievement, especially of the kind fuelled by state handouts, each subsequent generation finds itself at a greater disadvantage.

For middleclass incomes tend to promote middleclass values. One such is commitment to self-perpetuation, to which end many middleclass families try to inoculate their offspring against the more toxic aspects of modernity.

They help their children learn to read at an early age and practise that skill, even in occasional preference to video games. They then send their young to good schools, thereby often sacrificing their own pleasures.

Above all, they set a good example, by reading the odd book, going to the odd museum, attending the odd concert of real music and leading reasonably sober lives.

Moreover, middleclass men and women tend to marry their own kind, creating solid inputs into their families’ gene pools. That’s partly why, for whatever it’s worth, children growing up in middleclass neighbourhoods have higher IQ scores than children raised on council estates.

All things considered, for good universities to retain their status, most of their students should indeed come from middleclass families. Provided, and this is an important proviso, capable children from the lower classes aren’t left behind.

Whenever that happens, a problem exists that must be solved. And the solution starts with treating people not as numbers on statistical charts, but as individuals.

No country is so blessed with a surfeit of talent that it can afford to let gifted children fall through the cracks. After three generations of comprehensive non-education, Britain must dedicate every effort to identifying and fostering capable youngsters, whatever their walk in life.

The question is, how? Well, certainly not by introducing faceless statistical quotas owing their existence to ideologies proved destructive everywhere they’ve been applied in earnest.

Egalitarian comprehensive ‘education’ has failed to achieve its manifest purpose – quite the contrary. By destroying grammar schools, our socialists destroyed opportunities for clever children from poor families to be admitted to our best universities on merit.

The two-tier system of the past assured that some 25 per cent of the alumni were well-educated, and the rest still adequately prepared to fend for themselves in the economic rough-and-tumble.

This was perhaps the world’s most successful system of public education, and the world sighed enviously. Now, seeing that thousands of our youngsters leave secondary schools functionally illiterate, the world smirks contemptuously.

That’s where the first steps towards a more diversified social mix at Oxbridge should be taken. Reinstating grammar schools wouldn’t lower the academic standards at universities and would probably improve them.

What’s being proposed, however, will turn our universities into workshops for social engineering. The educational value of a university degree has already fallen under the level of the grammar school diploma of yesteryear. Now Oxbridge is trying to pull it down even lower than that.

A PD degree, anyone?

5 thoughts on “Oxbridge goes flat”

  1. “Deprived”students even if admitted will not last very long. A year or less of studies and then gone. Not able to keep up with the rigorous requirements of hallowed institutions.

    I am thinking of the current American model.

  2. The Finns have more than their fair share of drunken oafs yet their best school students beat the world in comparative tests. The reasons seem to have something to do with the followng: (a) they spend less than half the time in school than is spent in most western countries, (b) the teachers are well paid and must have a PD or something similar and parents are never allowed to question them, (c) teaching appears to be by Socratic dialogue after pupils have been set a learning task.

    1. In the 2020 universities ranking list, there is not one EU member state university in the top 50. The first Finnish entry is at 134, I’m afraid.

      1. I was writing about the best pre-tertiary students in every state being given an identical test for comparative purposes. University ranking lists are a very different kind of animal and anyone using them as a guide would be well advised to check the criteria used very carefully. Maybe being nice to nincompoops gets a big tick, who knows? Maybe it’s diversity that counts as some folks hope will be the case for tennis tournaments. Some ranking exercises in my own country can place great value on the value of research funds obtained by ‘bullfrog’ professors who use the research of their postgraduate research students and post-doctoral fellows and provide no opportunities for them to embark on a career.

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