Monday, April 07, 2008

Texas: the home of affirmative action?

Ricahrd Scorer (Labour PPC for Hazel Grove) has written a piece for Progress about the university admissions system operated by the US state of Texas. Apparently the top 10 per cent of students at all of the state's high schools are granted automatic admission to the state's own universities. Good idea? Could it be applied to the UK?

Well possibly...

1. The Texas model is 'limited' to a distinct geographical area. For a similar scheme to work here in the UK would (probably) require some universities to link to schools in a particular region or locality - would such a move help get more of our nation's comprehensive school kids into Oxbridge? Probably not.

2. If the Texas model were to be applied nationally then the top 10% of students in all of the nation's 11-18 schools or sixth form colleges would be granted places at... where? Because of the numbers involved you could not just limit the scheme to Oxbridge, you would have to extend it to other 'premier' league universities and you would probably have to extend the scheme to FE colleges and, sadly in my view, to private schools.

3. I wonder whether the issue really is about getting more kids from disadvantaged backgrounds applying to university? The truth is that over 80% of students who study A Levels (regardless of their background) go onto university. Perhaps the real challenge is to get more kids from the inner city studying for A Levels - presently only 30% of kids from 'working class' backgrounds stay on after 16.

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