Aaron Sloman

The opinions expressed below and in the documents referred to are opinions of the authors cited, and are not official statements from either The University of Birmingham or The School of Computer Science

Note added: 28 Jan 2004

Oh well -- the goverment has won, and the educational system has lost: And some short-sighted academics will give a cheer.

Instead of a properly designed variably-funded educational system meeting clearly defined educational needs, MPs have voted for an educational free-for-all based on market forces, with little or no chance of a proper review for many years to come -- unless another party is elected soon.


See also The Economist 23 Jan 2004, and the editorial comment.

Added 26 Jan 2004:
Lynne Jones has rebutted the OECD's arguments in support of the top-up fee proposals. See

Whilst I agree with her goal of increasing the proportions from lower socio-economic groups in universities, I think simply aiming for high target numbers in universities is not the way to do it, and neither is simply setting quotas for deprived social groups, for reasons given in my original letter.

Instead there should be well-funded 'catch up' opportunities to enable deprived youngsters, and late learners, with promise to show their mettle. When they have demonstrated that they are up to standard they can move from the catch-up courses to either Research Universities or Polytechnic universities, according to the level achieved. Any less discriminating approach will simply lower standards for everyone.

The 'Access' courses are supposed to do that, but I have no idea whether they are properly funded for the job. I suspect not, judging by what I found when I tried to explore this information site about access courses:
For instance, I found nothing on financial support for deprived students who wished to catch up. Moreover, most of the courses seemed to be targeting potential students at Polytechnic universities, rather than helping deprived high-flyers fulfil their potential. Is this another well-intentioned but badly thought out initiative?

23 Jan 2004
Updated: 26 Jan 2004