Private school’s attack on university class discrimination is laughable

Apparently, the plans would ‘rob some students of a future to award it to others’


This week, elite British private schools have utterly embarrassed themselves with their complete lack of self awareness.

After new higher education inclusion plans were published by Office for Students on Wednesday, a group of the most expensive private schools (HMC) released a statement which is so absurd that laughter is the only appropriate response.

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Executive Director Mike Buchanan announced that 'care is needed in starting actively to discriminate against individual young people on the basis of the class they were born into.' Oh, the irony.

He continued that 'the country needs all its young people to reach their potential if we are to create a bright new future.'

Well, Mike, while your passion is admirable, only 7% of British young people are privately educated. As you're so invested, may I recommend you instead start supporting state-educated students who make up the majority of this country's young people?

The group then hurried to defend their comments by letting us know that 'Not all state-educated students are disadvantaged.' Yet, equally those who attend private schools are disproportionately and indisputably placed at an advantage.

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Those from private schools consistently perform better in terms of career, social mobility, future earnings, and certainly in their university attendance. Yet, with HMC claim that OfS's plan could essentially become plot to 'rob some students of a future and award if to others'. This comes with the implication that those who have been state-educated are inherently less deserving, robbing the rightful futures of their privately-educated counterparts.

In fact, the disparity comes down to privilege rather than talent. OfS found that students from the most advantaged areas of England are six times more likely to go to top universities like Cambridge, Oxford, and other members of the Russell Group than those from disadvantaged areas.

They also found massive inequality in degree classifications. Black students and disabled students were far less likely than white, non-disabled students to achieve a 1st in their degree. So, the OfS inclusion plan proposed a series of quotas, targets, and monitoring requirements. These aim not just to improve opportunities for economically disadvantaged students, but also for students of colour and disabled students.

Funnily enough, none of this was mentioned in HMC's statement. Their concerns were simply about the possibility of class discrimination affecting them.

These fears are clearly not only unfounded, they are indulgently ignorant. Where is their attitude of indignation when it comes to the blatant unfairness which already exists in the education system? They should expect their response to face ridicule given how their accusation of injustice has been made in a climate of profound wealth inequality and growing poverty.

The alarm of this group when faced with the mere possibility of change exemplifies the farce of those who would rather cling to their privilege than embrace equality.

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If they really care about creating a 'bright new future', they wouldn't justify an unfair system with piecemeal offers like individual scholarships and think that is sufficient to address such profound and insidious inequality.

They should welcome changes on a governmental level to make sure that a quality education is accessible for anybody regardless of their background.

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