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“EQUALITY IN EDUCATION: TOP UNIVERSITY REVOLUTIONISES ADMISSION PROCESS”
The University of Cambridge has today announced the most radical change to its entry system in its 800 year history. Long regarded as a pinnacle of academic achievement, and largely the reserve of those who had already attained academic success, the university has announced a sea change which will enable access to its hallowed halls from the UK’s most deprived communities. For the first time since the reign of King John, when the earliest college was founded in Cambridge, every school in the country will be required to produce candidates for admission.
The updated admissions program allows the higher performing students from every school in the country to apply to the University. Irrespective of GCSE or A-Level performance, Cambridge will interview any pupil from any school who is in the top 5% of the school year. All schools will be limited to the top 5% of their pupils. This results in no school having an overwhelming presence in the University. Further, the application process will not include a candidate’s public examination results.
The move is proving to be a controversial one. Whilst many hail the new process as progressive and inclusive, others fear standards will begin to slip. Greg Fisher, a member of Government Think-Tank ‘Improving Access to Education’, described the revised system as ‘a promising shift towards the equality of education.’ Marjory Jones, Vice-Chancellor of Magdalen College, agreed that it was ‘a move in the right direction’, saying that ‘Cambridge has a history of educating the elite, whereas it should also be focussing on providing elite opportunities to those who deserve them’. Many agree that the move will make opportunities more widely available to students attending schools in more deprived areas who have worked hard to shine amongst their peers. It is hoped that this will increase diversity and tolerance in the University, and more widely.
However, not everyone is celebrating this seismic development. Former MP and Cambridge graduate Richard Jamieson fears that the global standing of the University will suffer. ‘I am concerned’, Mr Jamieson said, ‘that without rigorous academic entry requirements, the quality of undergraduate achievement will be diluted.’
For those who, like Mr Jamieson, are sceptical about the development, Mrs Jones explains that the colleges will be ‘putting in place advanced academic and learning support opportunities for new joiners who may have achieved lower grades in external examinations. This will be accompanied by enhanced pastoral care to assist any students who may at first feel out of their depth.’
The thinking behind the scheme is that no young person will be held back by their environment nor the standards of their particular school. Every hard-working and bright child will be given a chance to aim high within their own educational institution, and go on to forge a successful career. Equally, those from affluent areas or higher-ranking schools will not dominate further education and consequently the employment market. Mr Fisher heralds Cambridge’s new policy as ‘an exciting time for Cambridge’ He goes on ‘This ground breaking and forward thinking move will open up the university, the workforce and society, to a more even distribution of backgrounds’.