With a target of 50 percent of school leavers going to university by 2010, the government is encouraging more students than ever before to enter higher education. As with any target setting, there will be a divergent relationship between the quantity and the quality of education received by students.
But this target is not the only way in which the government is meddling with university admissions. They are constantly encouraging universities to accept more applicants from ‘lower-income’ backgrounds. The argument is that they may not have been able to afford the private school fees or tuition that middle class children may have benefited from. But by interfering with such blunt schemes the government is inevitably disadvantaging other students. The latest addition to the UCAS (University and Colleges Admission Services) form is a declaration of the students’ parents’ occupations – as if this gives any indication as to the aptitude of a candidate to study!
Why does the government continue to disadvantage certain young people of equal opportunities? If a child receives extra football coaching outside of school they aren’t told they must play with their shoelaces tied together to make it fair on the opposition!
As the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University stated recently, universities are designed for educating students rather than acting as ‘engines for promoting social justice’. Essentially, the government is trying to cover up its poor performance in education, but by making it easier for certain students to gain university entrance the government is reducing their incentives to study whilst at school. This benefits nobody.