University access not fair
London, May 26: None of them work. The elaborate schemes supposed to widen access to the UK's top universities - the summer schools, the mentoring programmes, the taster days, the bursaries and scholarships - have failed. The proportion of poor students these universities accept has fallen over the past 15 years.
A new report by the Office for Fair Access (Offa) shows that intelligent children from the richest 20 per cent of homes in England are seven times more likely to attend a high-ranking university than intelligent children from the poorest 40 per cent. In the mid-1990s they were six times more likely. The better the college, the worse the figures become. The Higher Education Statistics Agency publishes the figures for individual universities. I've just been through the spreadsheets.
In 2002-3, when the data begins, 5.4 per cent of students at Cambridge and 5.8 per cent of students at Oxford came from "low participation neighbourhoods". By 2008-9, the proportion had fallen to 3.7 per cent and 2.7 per cent. This has happened despite 13 years of a Labour government that listed its priorities as "education, education, education", and tens of millions spent - particularly by Oxford and Cambridge - on outreach and encouragement.
People of my social background (upper middle class) dominate every economic sector except those - such as sport and hard science - in which only raw ability counts. Through networking, confidence, unpaid internships - most importantly through our attendance at the top universities - we run the media, politics, the civil service, the arts, the financial sector, law, medicine, big business, the armed forces, even, in many cases, the protest movements challenging these powers.
The Milburn report, published last year, shows that 45 per cent of top civil servants, 53 per cent of top journalists, 32 per cent of MPs, 70 per cent of finance directors and 75 per cent of judges come from the seven per cent of the population who went to private schools. Even the beneficiaries should be able to see that this system is grotesque, invidious and socially destructive.
Children from privileged homes begin to creep ahead of their peers long before school begins: the link between background and attainment, Offa says, is evident at 22 months. But schooling widens the gap. By the time they sit exams at 16, the children of higher professionals are nearly three times as likely to get five good grades as the children of people in routine work. Fewer working-class children take A-level exams at 18, and those who do get lower scores. Pupils at private schools account for some 15 per cent of entries but take around 30 per cent of A grades.
But this isn't just about grades. Even when children from poorer homes do well, they are less likely to apply to the top universities. Going by grades alone, there's a shortfall of some 4,500 state sector pupils who should, all else being equal, enrol on the UK's top courses. These students aren't applying partly because their schools don't encourage them to do so; partly because they feel that the top universities aren't for the likes of them.
Private schools, by comparison, groom their pupils for Oxford and Cambridge. They pass from the quadrangles of Eton school to the quadrangles of Oxford with a sense of entitlement.
The Offa report is coherent and persuasive - until it starts making recommendations. It documents the utter failure of existing measures to redress the problem. The GuardianYour Comments
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa vacations schedule
Peshawar: The Elementary and Secondary Education Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has notified the schedule of vacations for the year 2010–11 for all the government and private schools in the province.
According to a notification issued here on Monday, all schools of plain areas in the province would observe summer vacations from June I to August 31 (for primary level) and from June 15 to Aug 31 (for middle and above level). While winter vacations will be observed from Dec 25 to Dec 31.
Similarly, all schools of hilly/snowy areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will observe spring vacations from April I to April 7 and summer vacations from July Is to July 31, while winter vacations will be observed from Dec 25 to Feb 28. Dawn
Teacher dies in Mastung target killing
Quetta: A retired school teacher was gunned down in an incident of target killing in Mastung on Tuesday.
According to sources, Abdul Jalil was coming out from a bank when unidentified armed motorcyclists fired at him resulting in his instant death and injuring a passer-by. The assailants managed to flee. Police reached the spot and cordoned off the area. The victim's body was shifted to a local hospital and was handed over to his family after an autopsy. According the police, the incident is a case of target killing. Police registered a case and have started investigations.
In another incident, an unidentified man stabbed victim Muhammad Iqbal to death. Iqbal was rushed to Civil Hospital, Mastung where doctors advised that he be shifted to Quetta for better medical treatment. However, on the way to Quetta, Iqbal succumbed to his injuries. Police handed over the victim's body to his family. Daily times
Graduation ceremony held at PAF Academy Risalpur
Peshawar: The graduation ceremony of Flying Instructors' Course was held at Flying Instructor's School, PAF Academy, Risalpur. Air vice Marshal Hafeez Ullah, Air Officer Commanding, PAF Academy, Risalpur was the chief guest on the occasion. The chief guest awarded certificate and trophy to the graduating instructor pilot.
Squadron Leader Farooq Akbar won the Chief of the Air Staff's Trophy for best all round performance in the course. The graduating batch of instructor pilots belongs to Pakistan Air Force, Army and Navy.
Addressing the graduating instructor pilots, the chief guest urged upon graduating Flying Instructors to be a true source of motivation, inspiration and role model for student pilots.
He expressed his resolve that Pakistan Air Force is ready to extend whole-hearted support to the sister services in grooming the officers capable enough for deployment in defense of the motherland. App
US to support Hazara University
Mansehra: The US Consulate General in Peshawar will support the Hazara University in English language and journalism fields.
A delegation of the US Consulate General, led by Public Affairs Officer John Sebra, on Tuesday visited the Hazara University and met vice-chancellor Dr Syed Sakhawat Shah and exchanged views on matters of mutual interest, says a press release.
The delegation also held a meeting with heads of English and Journalism and Mass Communication departments and got information about degree programmes in both the departments.
Mr Sebra offered mutual cooperation between faculty and students with their counterparts in the USA to expand the circle of academic activities.
He also expressed willingness to offer cooperation with the Journalism and Mass Communication department and possible linkages with the Voice of America.
Dr Shah told the delegation that the Hazara University was a partner in Pre-STEP and USAID programmes and four students of the university had selected for the Fulbright scholarship programme. Dawn