Dreaming spires and extreme reactions

15th July 2011 at 01:00

The Sutton Trust's research into state-school access to higher education is based on a number of false premises ("State pupils with right grades miss out on top universities," 8 July).

First, it equates a large sixth-form college like Hills Road with much smaller school sixth-forms. Moreover, since most of Hills Road's students come from local state schools with no sixth-form of their own, its success in getting students into Oxbridge is as much a tribute to the state schools as it is to the college.

More important is the assumption on which the report is based, namely that Oxbridge entry represents the height of academic achievement. Oxford and Cambridge have high academic standards, and a style of learning and living that suits some people but has never been right for all.

We spend half our time moaning when people don't get into Oxbridge and the other half sneering when they do. It is crazy to place all our hopes for our brightest students on just two universities. We should broaden our horizons, recognise that young people have a wide range of excellent institutions open to them, and stop making such a fetish of Oxbridge entry.

Dr Sean Lang, Senior lecturer in history, Anglia Ruskin University.

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