Alan Milburn, the former Labour MP, has recently hit out at the conditions of fiscally constrained students trying to obtain higher education. Milburn believes that automatic interviews and an adjusted offer boundary for disadvantaged students would help bridge the social gap in education.
On top of this Milburn believes that selective universities should be sponsoring city academies to create a sort of ‘feeder’ system. Also the idea of foundation courses for the less advantaged has been proposed. David Willets the Minister for Universities has received these notions favourably and has said he will urge the academic institutions to follow up on these reforms.
So far Milburn’s proposed ideas have received positive feedback but the argument blocking these potential changes would be that private school children may face discrimination. The current argument against it is a weak one, privately educated children roughly comprise 7% of the nation’s children with the statistic soaring to 18% post GCSE. So essentially 7% may be discriminated against in the future as opposed to 93% being discriminated in the immediacy for their humbler backgrounds.
These proposals are plausible given the problems students have faced in recent times. The scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and an unforeseen trebling of higher education has led to a discontentment amongst the academically ambitious youth of today. There has been an 8% drop in applicants to university according to UCAS since the rise of tuition fees and a 13.7% increase in international students. These policies could affect these figures for the better.
These reforms could lead to great things but it smacks of affirmative action. On the other side of the coin this could be seen as a quick fix scheme to basically say a state education will never be anywhere near as valuable as a private one and that attempts to better the system is somewhat futile. So instead we change the rules so that we don’t have to address the matter at hand.
Milburn’s ideas are potentially viable because whether we want it or not there is a gulf of difference between the private and state education system and this is at least a flicker of hope for the future.