Higher Ambitions


The governments new policy report Higher Ambitions reveals Lord Mandelson’s intention to increase social mobility. One way doing this, says Mandelson, is to lower the barriers to those institutions which he believes leads to upward social mobility, i.e. Oxbridge and other “selective" universities.

But stressing the socio-economic background of applicants rather than academic skills increases the risk of lowering the general level of academic training available on those high profile universities.

It also neglects the importance of the reputation of the Oxbridge & Co institutions to the rest of the English universities. Internationally the reputation of English Universities, to a certain degree, relies on the academic level of research committed by those “selective" institutions. English universities are not bad, not at all, but they are not superb either. However, they benefit internationally from two things: (1) the dominance of the English language and (2) by having a reference point in the Oxbridge & Co institutions, which attracts a lot of bright international students and scholars to the British universities.

By lowering the entrance demands at Oxbridge & Co the general level of education will go down thus driving down the international reputation of these top institutions, ultimately leaving the whole English university community worse off than to begin with. This is because talented students will seek other places in order to increase their returns to education. As Grit Laudel states in her article Migration Currents Among the Scientific Elite published in Minerva (2005), you need talent in order to attract talent and if the standards of the students are not good you won’t get the talented ones.