Cambridge Supremo shuns social mobility

Alison Richard, vice-chancellor of Cambridge, has confirmed that the University strives for academic excellence and not social mobility

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Alison Richard has dealt a blow to equality advocates by saying that academic excellence and NOT social mobility is the aim of Cambridge University.

In her annual speech to mark the start of the new academic year, the Vice-Chancellor of the University said, “at Cambridge our goal, fervently espoused, is to admit the most talented students."
Richard claimed that this aim must not be compromised by attempts to diversify the student body.
She declared that “social mobility, gender balance and ethnic mix are not driving forces in the process” of undergraduate admissions. 
Her controversial comments echo an earlier speech, in which she slated the idea that Universities should be “engines for social justice.”
This outburst was seen as a thinly veiled jibe at new Government policies, which encouraged elite Universities to recruit more students from less privileged backgrounds.
Richard, who enjoys a £227,000 per annum salary, is the first ever woman to hold the position of full-time Vice-Chancellor, lending a smack of irony to her statement.
Her comments come just days after it was revealed that a full 12% of freshers were taken from just 20 schools. In addition, a paltry 24% of Cambridge’s new undergraduates were drawn from the 90% of British students educated at non-grammar state schools.
These alarming figures have led some to suggest that schooling is more decisive than academic potential when it comes to admissions.
One 2nd year student commented, “I think that sometimes, more talented students don’t shine in interview because they haven’t had the training that privately educated students have had.”
To counter the bias shown towards independently schooled applicants, the University has an extensive access programme. This includes a shadowing scheme, for those with little family experience of University, and ‘Target’ visits for state schools.
Despite such efforts, the profile of the undergraduate intake remains largely homogeneous. One access officer expressed his concern that Richard’s comments will more deeply entrench the view that such programmes achieve few real results.
Richard’s term as Vice-Chancellor expires in September, 2010.