湖北自考网2016-04-06 09:41:55
Advantage Unfair

According to the writer Walter Ellis, author of a book called the Oxbridge Conspiracy, Britain is still dominated by the old-boy network: it isn't what you know that matters, but who you know. He claims that at Oxford and Cambridge Universities (Oxbridge for short) a few select people start on an escalator ride which, over the years, carries them to the tops of British privilege and power. His research revealed that the top professions all continue to be dominated, if not 90 per cent, then 60 or 65 per cent, by Oxbridge graduates.

And yet ,says Ellis, Oxbridge graduates make up only two per cent of the total number of students who graduate from Britain's universities. Other researches also seem to support his belief that Oxbridge graduates start with an unfair advantage in the employment market. In the law, a recently published report showed that out of 26 senior judges appointed to the High Court last year, all of them went to private schools and 21 of them went to Oxbridge.

But can this be said to amount to a conspiracy? Not according to Dr. John Rae, a former headmaster of one of Britain's leading private schools, Westminster:"I would accept that there was a bias in some key areas of British life, but that bias has now gone. Some time ago - in the 60s and before - entry to Oxford and Cambridge was not entirely on merit. Now, there's absolutely no question in any objective observer's mind that entry to Oxford and Cambridge is fiercely competitive."However, many would disagree with this. For, although over three-quarters of British pupils are educated in state schools, over half the students that go to Oxbridge have been to private, or "public" schools. Is this because pupils from Britain's private schools are more intelligent than those from state schools, or are they simply better prepared?

On average, about £5,000 a year is spent on each private school pupil, more than twice the amount spent on state school pupils. So how can the state schools be expected to compete with the private schools when they have far fewer resources? And how can they prepare their pupils for the special entrance exam to Oxford University, which requires extra preparation, and for which many public school pupils traditionally stay at school and do an additional term?

Until recently, many blamed Oxford for this bias because of the university's special entrance exam (Cambridge abolished its entrance exam in 1986). But last February, Oxford University decided to abolish the exam to encourage more state school applicants. From autumn 1996, Oxford University applicants, like applicants to other universities, will be judged only on their A level results and on their performance at interviews, although some departments might still set special tests.

However, some argue that there's nothing wrong in having elite places of learning, and that by their very nature, these places should not be easily accessible. Most countries are run by an elite and have centres of academic excellence from which the elite are recruited. 

Walter Ellis accepts that this is true:"But in France, for example, there are something like 40 equivalents of university, which provide this elite through a much broader base. In America you've got the Ivy League, centred on Harvard and Yale, with Princeton and Stanford and others. But again, those universities together - the elite universities - are about ten or fifteen in number, and are being pushed along from behind by other great universities like, for example, Chicago and Berkeley. So you don't have just this narrow concentration of two universities providing a constantly replicating elite."

When it comes to Oxford and Cambridge being elitist because of the number of private school pupils they accept, Professor Stone of Oxford University argues that there is a simple fact he and his associates cannot ignore:"If certain schools do better than others then we just have to accept it. We cannot be a place for remedial education. It's not what Oxford is there to do."

However, since academic excellence does appear to be related to the amount of money spent per pupil. This does seem to imply that Prime Minister John Major's vision of Britain as a classless society is still a long way off. And it may be worth remembering that while John Major didn't himself go to Oxbridge, most of his ministers did.







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