Timmy Elsewhere


Peter Lilley\’s great speech and you can try to abolish markets but like the vampires, they\’ll always come back.


5 thoughts on “Timmy Elsewhere”

  1. Imperial (my alma mater) was mulling introducing additional entrance exams when I was there 20 years ago. There was insufficient discrimination to be had from A levels even back then (interviews counted very heavily). Standards hadn’t really slipped all that badly, but we were considered to be sufficiently bright that the first two weeks of Maths lectures were used to get those of us who had not taken double Maths at A level up to the level of those who had. If an entire two year syllabus could be recapitulated in a fortnight, then it is pretty clear that as a meaningful hurdle, A levels have been under par for a long time.

  2. @ DG – unless you were actually studying maths, that doesn’t follow at all.

    The 2-week intensive course could be to teach you all the maths from the further maths paper *that is directly relevant to the engineering/chemistry degree you’re about to start*, which might be 1/10 of the total content of the FM paper.

  3. That would be a fair point, except there did not exist an area of further maths at A level that was not directly relevant to the attainment of a BSc in physics at IC. Our maths lecturers were supplied by the maths department, not the physics department, as maths was felt to be so central to our studies (much more so than other hard science/engineering disciplines, and more so than some physics courses at other universities). Having a grasp of all of the areas covered by double maths A level was simply a starting point to get into the really sticky stuff.

    You can put it another way: given that not all of us had double maths A levels, but after that initial two-week levelling of the playing field we were all at the standard required to take them, the extra A level was a poor discriminator. There was no discernible holdover effect as we progressed to more advanced studies.

  4. Fair enough – I was guessing your CV, and obviously a physics degree features a lot more hard maths than engineering or chemistry.

    In that case I’m mildly surprised – while I only took single maths A-level, and found it fairly easy, a lot of people who took both subjects found the single maths paper easy and the further maths paper an order of magnitude harder.

    [how did Imperial select at the time? Is it possible that the only single-maths people it took on the physics course were people who the tutors had worked out in interview/entrance tests were exceptionally mathematically gifted and therefore would be able to master the further paper in a fornight…?]

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