Elitism in the UK university system.

Essay by DavidBrent January 2003

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England has always had a proud tradition of excellence at its universities up and down the country; notably the distinguished 'Oxbridge' institution, i.e. Oxford and Cambridge. Many ex-scholars from a wide range of academic backgrounds have gone on to achieve excellence in the fields of medicine, politics, science, even sport and comedy. Some of the finest minds in the world have been nurtured and produced in this country.

For all the history and splendour of the English university system, there has always been a cross-section of society unable to take advantage of the world-class education on offer. Historically, only the students seen as capable of distinguishing the universities' splendid legacies were even chosen from the ones who could afford to apply in the first place. Without making a sweeping generalisation, this has carried on through the centuries with mainly the middle and upper classes going through Higher Education.

', Only 25% of young entrants were from social classes IIIM (skilled manual), IV (semi-skilled) and V (unskilled).

In addition, only 12% of young full-time entrants and 14% of mature full-time entrants came from low participation neighbourhoods'.

According to the latest Performance Indicators published by The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), across the UK in 1999


Especially since the Tory Government decided to abolish student grants just before the Labour party came into power, a large percentage of students coming out of further education simply could not afford to go to university, despite their ability and qualifications. After paying off tuition fees and taking out student loans, a three-year course at university can sometimes cost up to £12,000 and more.

In 2000, one of the biggest debates over the university admissions system in English history was sparked off. This followed a decision by Oxford University to deny Laura Spence,