Thursday, 27 December 2018


I'm a graduate of Cambridge university, and my college was Churchill.   I think that universities are a Good Thing, especially in their old rôle of guardians and expanders of academic knowledge.   I think they are, or were, of general benefit to mankind.   As a member of the university and of the college, I get what you could call an annual report from each; they include a summary of what has been going on, news about graduates, and so on. 

The Cambridge one this year sports on the cover, and on an inside double spread, a picture of a collection of people, with banners that all read "Progress Together".  My first thought on seeing it was that it looks like a game of Diversity Bingo, but on the other hand, if the uni wants to emphasise the fact that a world-class university education is available to everyone who meets the requirements, regardless of height, weight or hair colour, then I'm all for it.

There is an article inside, about Stormzy, a black grime artist (electronic dance music), who has sponsored a new Cambridge studentship for four black British students, covering tuition and a maintenance grant for up to four years on any course.   Well excuse me, but isn't that a teensy bit, um, well racist?

The Churchill college magazine often has articles about its outreach campaign, attempting to find intelligent students who have been failed by the government education system, but who could benefit from a Cambridge education, once brought up to speed.  This is a good thing in my view.   The college is apparently, under intense pressure to admit more young women.  Churchill college must recruit at least a specified minimum proportion of science undergraduates (by statute) and since fewer young women than men currently study sciences, these two objectives are hard to reconcile.  One part of the proposed solution is apparently to try to ensure that, without reducing academic standards, more women who apply directly get in.   If the recruiters have been doing their job properly, of course this won't be possible.   Another part of the solution, as far as I understand it, is to favour women who go through "clearing", that is, they are rejected by the college they initially applied to, but might be capable of benefiting from coming to Churchill.  Excuse me again, but isn't that a teensy bit, um, well sexist?


Tim Trent said...

I have never been a fan of designer discrimination, positive nor negative.

It is not a right for anyone to go to any university unless their academic record suggests that they are suitable.

The only form of discrimination I favour for universities is their ability to choose their entrants on the sole basis of their academic status and potential. Any choosing of entrants based on characteristics other than academic criteria is a false and biased process.

James Higham said...

Tim is right:

It is not a right for anyone to go to any university unless their academic record suggests that they are suitable.

CherryPie said...

Years ago I was introduced to 'Positive Discrimination' as a way of advertising jobs...

Promoting a job vacancy 'not to get the best candidate for the job' but to include diversity... It may be sex, ethnicity, colour, religion, disability etc.

I have always thought that 'Positive Discrimination' promotion is subversive leading to the best person for the job being sidelined in favour of some who ticks one or more of the 'Positive Discrimination' boxes.

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