University entrance: Manchester university response

23 Jun 2008

May I take a moment to say thank you for highlighting, again, the important role of leading universities in the national widening participation agenda in your recent University entrance: tail wagging the dog?  
 
I manage all of The University of Manchester’s undergraduate recruitment and widening participation activity. Through our strategic plan Towards Manchester 2015 we accord the highest priority to ensuring that access to our undergraduate programmes is on the basis of merit, rather than background. As a leading University, committed to attracting some of the brightest minds to Manchester, we recognise that sadly one’s educational potential can be severely obscured by educational and social disadvantage. The introduction of further testing of A level students and the A* grade therefore raises serious questions for all of us who care about fair admissions and in ensuring that our leading universities genuinely admit the most outstanding students, whatever their schooling or social circumstances.
 

Your own interjections in this debate are absolutely crucial. Whether we like it or not, such discussions about University admissions are all-too-often played out within a narrow set of parameters, where terms such as “social engineering” and “dumbing down” are used as euphemisms for the genuine attempts by universities to seek out the very brightest and the best, whatever their background. We need more people like you highlighting the perverse consequences of additional testing for university entrance on our prospects of greater social mobility. Without such debate, the alternative is to sleep walk into a situation where the upper echelons of our higher education system simply reproduces - and worse still widens – previous inequities based on social background. No authentic university would wish this to happen.

For more see this article from the Vice Chancellor of Manchester University: http://www.staffnet.manchester.ac.uk/presidentandvc/bulletin/

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