following passages into Chinese
How can universities choose?
By Mike Baker
What a sudden panic we have had over university admissions. Who could have predicted that top independent schools would decide to boycott Bristol University, one of their pupils' favourite destinations? Or that the admissions arrangements at a single university other than Oxford or Cambridge should be front page news?
The educational world really is turned upside down when boycotts are being staged by the head teachers of some of the most prestigious, and expensive, schools and by the education secretary himself who, if you recall, is boycotting the National Union of Teachers' annual conference.
In the good old days it was radical students and militant teacher unions which did all the boycotting. But it is the 1960s and 1970s generation which now fills the ranks of head teachers and senior politicians.
There are other parallels with that period. 'Social engineering' was a phrase much bandied about in the vociferous debate over the spread of comprehensive schools and the decline of academic selection at age 11.
Now that charge is being repeated and, once more, against a Labour government. Only this time the focus is on selection at 18, not at 11.
Similar arguments are being employed and similar lobby groups and interests are squaring up.
Comprehensive schools were promoted as a more equitable form of education, which would redress the failure of secondary schools to do well by the less able and the children of the lower social classes.
The argument for wider access to university follows a similar line, pointing out that, for all the expansion in higher education, gaining a degree remains largely the preserve of the middle classes.
The defenders of the 11-plus examination believed the grammar schools were meritocratic institutions which guaranteed quality education irrespective of parents' social class background or ability to pay.
They argued the grammar schools simply took the best on the basis of a competitive exam.
Now the critics of the government's plans to widen access are employing the same argument: Entry to university should be entirely on academic merit, as measured by performance in the A-level examinations.
The one difference between the debate over grammar schools then and the row over universities now is that the form of selection at 11 was more explicit.
There is no single entrance test for universities, although some would like to see the American SAT examination introduced in Britain.
Each university has its own admission arrangements. Many methods have been tried and all have been found wanting in some respect. The task is particularly difficult for very popular universities like Bristol. ...