Friday, January 21, 2011

Good and bad news in British education

First, the good news. The government is considering making a foreign (modern) language a compulsory GCSE subject. While I don't think it should matter if students would prefer to study Latin rather than French, this is welcome news where there has been a real decline in students taking foreign languages when choosing GCSEs. Further details are here.

Now the not so good news. While universities accept more and more students onto their undergraduate programmes, fewer and fewer of these students are British. Details on this can be found here. At present, there are quotas on how many undergraduate students from the EU (including the UK) a department may accept. This means that students from Germany, Italy, etc. compete for the same places as British students for places in British universities. This does not strike me as a problem, but the problem is instead that there is no such quota for students from outside the EU, such as from the US, Canada, etc.

Therefore, suppose you had x number of students who were of sufficient calibre for entry from the EU/UK and y number of students of sufficient calibre for entry who were non-EU/UK where x and y both equal 650. Suppose further that a university could accommodate 1000 students, but only had quota for 350 EU/UK students.  The result could be that less than half of all EU/UK students would be admitted and all non-EU/UK students would be admitted...despite both x and y students being of equal ability and calibre. I don't think there should be a preference for either group, but it strikes me as a bit more problematic that the balance swings this way than the other (even if, again, my view only merit and not nationality should count ideally).

No comments: