Should universities discriminate in favour of state school pupils?

Nigel Ford's picture
Now when I say state schools I mean comprehensive and 6th form colleges rather than grammar schools.

We're forever being told that Oxbridge and other Russell group universities has a far higher proportion of public school pupils despite only 7% of the school age population attending these schools and we know that this isn't necessarily due to superior teaching in the independent sector but several other factors which in no way reflect badly on state schools or their pupils.

However, if I was to start from the premise that state school teaching is just as good as its private school counterpart then why should private school pupils be penalised when it comes to limited university places?

If hypothetically, my next door neighbours educated their child privately and he got 3 A grade A' levels (or is it A* now) and my state school son got two A's and a B in the same subjects would it be right that he got a university place ahead of my neighbours' son? I might feel a bit smug and even a tad sorry that my neighbour had shelled out all this money for private education only to be foiled at the last hurdle by someone who had weaker grades, while finding it somewhat ironic.

I really am in two minds on this. I do want to see more state pupils going to good universities so that they have the same access to decent jobs and I think if there are two students with identical grades but one was privately educated and the other wasn't the state school pupil should get the nod. I'm just not sure about discrimination when it is at the expense of a stronger candidate with better grades. Maybe a university should be explicit in its terms that it seeks to attract state school applicants which is code for lower A' level grades so parents and pupils know where the goalposts lie.

I would be interested to hear other views about whether the university system should be entirely meritocratic or if there should be a formula that takes other factors into account when awarding university places.
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