Students

Politicians do love to share their views on Oxbridge admissions. This time around David Cameron has taken a pop at Oxford over the number of black students, using some pretty forthright language.

“I saw figures the other day that showed that only one black person went to Oxford last year. I think that is disgraceful, we have got to do better than that.”

It’s a startling statistic — and almost true. Cameron would be advised to check his facts before picking this fight.

Here’s a rebuttal from Oxford, which they put out a few weeks ago:

On a related point, much has been made of the ‘one black Caribbean student’ admitted to Oxford in 2009. Not one black student, but one black Caribbean student – in one year, looking at only UK candidates, and only undergraduates.

As Oxford has pointed out before, this is very selective use of data. In that year, there were actually 27 black UK students admitted to Oxford. Beyond black students alone, 22% of Oxford’s overall student body is non-white (BME).

As this BBC story shows, Oxford have put some effort into attracting black students over the years. Their campaign has not been a resounding success. But the issues are certainly more complicated than Cameron suggests.

UPDATE: Oxford have put out an official response to Cameron’s comments. Apparently they’ve been in touch with Downing Street to correct his figures. Full statement below: Read more

The prospect of all Lib Dem MPs — including Clegg and Cable — abstaining on the tuition fee rise never did seem likely.

Well, Vince Cable has consigned the idea to the dustbin, saying he’ll vote for a rise in fees. He broke the news to the Twickenham TimesRead more

If you asked a Lib Dem MP whether they would abstain on tuition fees given a free vote, the answer would almost certainly be no. Most of them have very strong views on the matter. Vince Cable just spelled out the obvious: his “personal instinct” is to vote for the policy he developed.

Yet when 57 Lib Dem MPs gather in one room, strange things begin to happen to their judgement.

Even Nick Clegg is now seriously considering the mass abstention option — bravely leading his party to sit on the fence.

To be fair, there are no good options. They will be punished for breaking their pledge to vote against a rise. But it seems that after countless hours of excruciating debate, they’ve decided the best way to minimise the pain is to not vote at all. Read more

There were two important “read my lips” moments in the election campaign. One was Clegg’s pledge to oppose a rise in tuition fees. The other was Cameron’s “contract” with the electorate on pensioner perks. Each pledge cost the Treasury a comparable amount (about £7bn and £4bn respectively). Only one politician had to eat his words.

This may be one of the most important trade-offs of the coalition. Tim Montgomerie has done a brilliant job of collating all the Con-Lib compromises so far. But a lot of them are obscure policy disputes, matters for the Westminster village. Most will hardly register with the electorate. Read more

Ed Miliband loves the idea. Some of the coalition are even toying with the policy. Here are four reasons why the Treasury should ignore them.

1. The dead hand of state control

A graduate tax will kill any sense of a market in university degrees, as all funding will be centralised. Bureaucrats will divvy up the cash for the university courses they judge to be worthy. Instead of following the informed decisions of students, the money will follow the whims of Whitehall. This tax “reform” would effectively run universities like the Further Education sector. Brilliant. Read more