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8:10am Thursday 12th April 2012 in Letters
Sir – Two key facts emerge from your main story (April 5). They are:
- Oxford Brookes University (originally Oxford Polytechnic), which has an honourable history in contributing to widened access to higher education in England, is reducing such opportunities for future students by an estimated 1,800 places, while Oxford University has no such plans
- The university’s management, having for some time maintained that this is in response to “community concerns” has recently accepted that it is a response to the new higher education environment characterised by £9,000 per annum tuition fees.
This is surely worthy of editorial comment. It is the local expression of a national trend, as is the fact that Brookes is almost alone among new universities in seeing an increase in applications this year.
We have reached a historic moment. The last 50 years have seen an increasing participation in staying rates on post compulsory education by over-16s which has fed an expansion of higher and further education. That is the great historic achievement of comprehensive schooling.
Now alongside the news about Brookes and other ex-polys, comes the prospect of the total disruption of education provision in the city as one school after another is pushed towards “academy status”.
In an atomised world where those running educational institutions see themselves as entrepreneurial figures “competing” in a “market” of “student choice” what chance of a shared conversation — across society —about the purposes of education in a society caught up in far-reaching change?
I hope I am not alone in hoping that in a city like Oxford, whose name has for centuries been synonymous with learning, there are still people who are prepared to take part in such a conversation. It would be sad indeed if the “story” focused on over-reactions to the behaviour of a limited number of inconsiderate young people to the exclusion of the main issues.
Bob Waugh, Oxford