Sounds sensible to me

So, Oxford is accused of social engineering:

Students who apply to Oxford University will have the postcode of their family home taken into account during the selection process, The Observer can reveal.

In a controversial move, which critics say amounts to \’social engineering\’, academics will identify those applicants who live in deprived, middle-income or more affluent neighbourhoods. Those living in poorer areas will stand a better chance of being selected for interview.

The aim of the scheme, which will be implemented later this year, is to help pick out pupils who have achieved top grades despite growing up in areas where aspirations are low and few people consider university an option.

The complaint is further that Oxford should be selecting purely upon intellectual ability rather than background.

Whichis a little odd, for someone who grew up in, say, one of those appalling estates in East Glasgow, with whatever it is, 130% unemployment and the entire population flossing with heroin every morning, and then gets straight As at A level can be said to have displayed really rather a lot of intellectual ability, certainly more than someone with the same exam results who has had the good fortune to be hothoused through Eton.

I would look at this as not so much social engineering as an attempt to find out who really does have that intellectual ability.

6 thoughts on “Sounds sensible to me”

  1. With so many kids getting straight As, approaching 15% and probably a majority of private school kids, a bright East Glasgow kid has little chance of standing out from the crowd.
    The real solution is to limit grade As to only the brightest.

  2. Very true.

    It’s interesting to note that students from State schools subsequently outperform private-school students who started with the same A-Level grades as them at entry.

  3. Even way back when I was there, good Oxford colleges were interested in intellectual promise. Taking candidates’ background into consideration must be part of this. As far as I can see there is no story here – just people continuing to do their job, perhaps in a slightly more systematic way.

  4. The problem, John, is the “systematic way”. It’s cobblers – far, far too crude to be worth anything. One of the best admissions decisions I ever made – long ago, when I did such things – concerned a girl who had had to run the household because her mother was dying of cancer and her father had run off with a floozy. You’ll not get that right by fannying around with postcodes; you have to admit individuals, not social groups, so social dictats are the wrong tool. And just for the hell of it: you’ll find I think that slummies from Glasgow East don’t do A levels, Glasgow being in Scotland.

  5. The problem is that poverty maps are generally crude/useless

    Example – E1. Million pound flats a hundred yards from some of the poorest areas in Britain. Or W4 – posh Chiswick – which has it’s hell holes….

  6. Have rates of application to Oxbridge risen in line with the increase in pupils going on to tertiary education? I can’t see that they would have, given that the expansion has been at the lower end of the scale. Twenty odd years ago, if you put Oxford or Cambridge on your UCCA form, you were pretty much guaranteed an interview. What has changed in dons’ workload that means they can’t interview all-comers in the way they used to?

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