Tuesday, 24 August 2010

A jolt of reality

Part of my day job these days sees me in contact with the University of Liverpool.

This last week has been "Clearing", arguably the busiest administrative week of the university year, in which students who having discovered they haven't quite got the A-Level grades they'd anticipated scramble for ever fewer numbers of places on alternative courses.

This year, and last to a slightly lesser extent, the media hype around government cutbacks resulting in even fewer courses on offer seemed to make applicants even more frantic and frenzied. Within moments of telephone lines opening there was a surge of callers like I'd never seen before, and those elevated levels lasted throughout much of Clearing itself.

So, what's my point? Well, it saddens me that so many young people are turned away from the system. Yes, there is the argument that these students have performed poorly against their A-Level expectations, but then we all know exams can sometimes be tricky beasts, and performance on the day is not always directly related to work put in during the academic year or indeed an absolute indicator of student ability.

And in many ways these people are political pawns. Labour, a mere two years ago set out a vision of 50% of young people given access to Higher Education (which I guess would mean a university place for everyone who wanted one given Higher Education is never going to be the right option for all). Last year Labour reneged on that and cuts began. This year, the new Tory/Liberal mismatch government will go even further.

The children of all the Tory MPs will get in, as will those of all their rich friends. And in the meantime I had to listen to the deflated sighs last week as many young people were told they had no place. Welcome to the real world; check all compassion at the door.

(I should point out I don't work directly for the University of Liverpool, and so any moans and gripes above are purely mine alone).

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