Liz Truss, frontrunner in the race for Conservative Party leadership, has suggested she will reform the Oxbridge admissions system to give all top students a chance for a place.
As part of a six-point education plan announced last Friday, the Oxford graduate proposed that any student with three A* grades at A level should automatically be invited to interview at Oxbridge.
The proposal was put forward in a bid to improve social mobility. The current foreign secretary, an alumni of Merton College, believes that this reform will inspire students who are discouraged by teachers who believe that Oxbridge is “full of toffs.”
Truss told The Sunday Times: “There’s a lot of evidence that women are less likely to ask for a promotion and actually one of the best ways of making the system fairer is to identify the people that are talented and ask them if they want that opportunity.”
UCAS has rejected an approach of this nature in the past since it would “significantly disadvantage underrepresented and disabled students, unless secondary and/or university calendars are changed.” The proposal also puts increased weight on exam performance rather than the other factors which are considered in the current system. The measures are said to be counter-productive since students who are private or selective school educated achieve the highest proportion of these grades.
Truss has further been accused of “micromanagement” by a major teaching union, for the curb in admissions autonomy. Should the proposal be implemented, it would involve 13,000 Oxbridge interviews in England alone, solely from the students achieving 3 A*’s, excluding those who apply on their own merit. The move would compel the universities to hold thousands of extra interviews every year, resulting in what has been described as a “procedural nightmare.”
Diana Beech, chief executive of London Higher, an organisation representing over 40 universities, said, “As well as showing no consideration that Oxbridge might not necessarily be the right choice for everyone, Ms Truss’s proposals reveal no regard for logistics or legalities.”
Furthermore, the reform would require the admissions process to be shifted (a system labelled “post-qualification admissions”) until after results day, which would abandon the current predicted grades system. A plan to implement PQA however was abandoned just 6 months ago by the Department of Education, since support for the proposal was “not strong enough.”
Truss’s pledge has been branded “bafflingly obtuse, poorly thought through and impossible to implement,” however she remains hopeful in her bid to become the “education prime minister” that this policy will “ensure our education system gets back on track.”