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← [Update - comments by AC Grayling] British academics launch £18,000 college in London

Cartomancer's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by Cartomancer

I find I cannot treat this development with anything but disappointment and sadness. I have always been, and remain, a staunch opponent of privatised, plutocratically segregated, education in any form. I think it debauches and prostitutes learning to make it something that the wealthy can access more of than those of lesser means. It is an inherently unfair concept through and through, and one of the greatest contributory factors to social inequality and the perpetuation and widening of the wealth gap between the haves and the have-nots. We should be working towards making top-class education available to everyone, free of charge, and placing the costs on the shoulders of the richest (especially the corporate sector) through much higher taxation on those who can afford it. Like they do in Scandinavia.

And having 20% of the places financially assisted does not adequately address this. That simply creates a two-tier system where the vast majority of applicants, who don't have a spare £100k lying around to pay for three years of tuition and living in London, must fight it out tooth and nail for a fifth of the places, while their filthy rich contemporaries can just get into the remaining 80% anyway. The poorer ones have to fight five times as hard to secure the same thing.

Sure, each application will be considered on merit and the intention will be to only admit the brightest, but that aim is utterly incompatible with charging huge fees and only putting aside 20% of the places for financial assistance. It would only be a fair system if academic ability correlated with parental wealth (which it so obviously doesn't that the mere suggestion it would is actually quite offensive) such that there was a 5:1 ratio of people whose parents could afford the massive fees to people who couldn't within the top-performing academic bracket. In actual fact academic ability is entirely unrelated to parental wealth, and spread evenly across the wealth spectrum.

The mean salary in Britain today is something like £20k. It would be utterly impossible to pay such fees for one's children on that. Even those earning 40k a year (for which it would still be a massive struggle) are in the top 10%. The discrepancy is vast, and very disappointing. Which actually skews the figures even more, since 90% of the applicants will be fighting for 20% of the places, while the wealthiest 10% have free access to the other 80%. That essentially means that someone in the bottom 90% of the national wealth distribution will have to fight 36 times harder for a place than someone in the top 10%.

A project to emphasise good teaching practise is laudable, and I have no problems with the curriculum. But tying it to the sordid, unjust, socially enervating world of private education I find deeply misguided.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 16:41:24 UTC | #634277