Dr Bruce Charlton, an academic from the University of Newcastle, has argued that upper-class domination of Oxbridge is “a natural outcome of meritocracy” and flaws in the IQ system.
He has suggested that IQ is a faulty system for determining intelligence of individuals and that it is affected by class.
Charlton denies institutional elitism at top UK universities, saying: “Evidence to support the allegation of systematic unfairness has never been presented. Nevertheless, the accusation has been used to fuel a populist ‘class war’ agenda.
Charlton said, “Yet in all this debate a simple and vital fact has been missed: higher social classes have a significantly higher average IQ than lower social classes.”
He goes on to argue that the UK government “has spent a great deal of time and effort in asserting that universities, especially Oxford and Cambridge, are unfairly excluding people from low social-class backgrounds and privileging those from higher social classes.”
According to Charlton, the average IQ in the UK is 100, but this rises to 115 for the ‘highest’ social class, who are mainly professional and senior managerial workers.
By comparison, Charlton argues that this falls to an average IQ of around 90 for the ‘lowest’ social class of unskilled workers – a difference of 25 IQ points.
Charlton predicts: “About half of children whose parents are among the cognitive elite (IQs of 130 or higher)” are eligible for admission to the most selective universities, but only “about one in 200 of kids from the lowest social stratum.”
Charlton has called his research “scientifically uncontroversial, whether people like it or not.”
Richard Lynn, Professor Emeritus at the University of Ulster and author of Dysgenics, justified Charlton’s findings, saying, “The facts of higher IQs in higher SES groups is universally accepted by psychologists.”
However he added, “He stated a non PC truth. It was an emperor has no clothes statement – something everyone (experts, anyway) knows is true but dare not say.”
Bill Rammell, the Higher Education Minister, defended the Government’s commitment “to ensuring that everyone with the talent and commitment to benefit from higher education has the opportunity do so regardless of their background or which school they attended.
“This country cannot afford to let a child’s potential go to waste because of the circumstances in which they were born.”
Robert Sternberg, Dean of arts and sciences at Tufts University in the USA and an expert on human intelligence said, “Those who are in positions of power typically look for others like themselves to be allowed access to the educational routes that lead to power.
“It is a principle of interpersonal attraction that we tend to be attracted to others like ourselves, and this applies with full force to those who set admissions policies.”
At Tufts University, the admissions system is not only based upon exams such as A-Levels and SATS, but also what Sternberg calls the class-levelling “creative, practical, and wisdom-based abilities that are crucial for success in life as well as in school, and in which people of diverse backgrounds are more likely to excel.
“We have found that these measures do not show the kinds of group differences typically found on conventional measures like the SAT and A-levels.”
But when recommending use of such a system in Britain, Tufts was faced by “an admissions director of an elite UK university, which will go unnamed, commenting that the system I described could not be used in the UK.
“It does not surprise me when admissions directors of elite UK universities react that it cannot be done there. Such procedures might actually open up admissions slots to students from diverse populations, and some find that prospect frightful indeed.”
OUSU’s Access Officer James Lamming commented, “Greater than expected proportions of the higher social classes in Oxford are caused before admissions.
This is because sections of the country, predominantly in state schools, either choose not to apply to Oxford because they are put off by outdated myths or because they have been let down by poor schooling that means they do not achieve their potential and fail to reach the high standards required to apply successfully.
“Campaigns like OUSU’s Target Schools and the University Access Scheme seek to address these problems so that the most talented students, whatever their background, consider applying to Oxford on the basis of facts, not historic fictions.”
Asked about the admissions system, the University Press Office stated: “There is no discrimination in favour of or against any group.
“Selection criteria apply to all students in the same way and students are admitted solely on the basis of academic ability and potential.”