Inequalities in higher education

 

Sir, – Further to “New figures expose class divide in higher education” (February 7th), if institutes of technology have a higher proportion of their students qualifying for grants, surely this should be celebrated as evidence that the institutes of technology have opened up opportunities to less-favoured regions and social groups. Instead we have the complaint that the universities are relatively elitist.

What is almost totally ignored in all of this indignation is the finding of educational researchers for decades, and in publications almost too numerous to count, that educational opportunities are heavily influenced by what happens at an early age. Why should universities be penalised for policy inadequacies at primary and secondary levels?

The overexpansion of third level, whether at universities or at wannabe universities, may hold little appeal for those whose talents and backgrounds might orient them more towards high-quality apprenticeships. Seeking to admit 70 per cent of an age-cohort to third-level is wildly excessive, when compared with the policy of countries such as Germany.

The obsession with equality has lead people to ignore questions of the appropriate quantities training and of traditional higher educational provision. – Yours, etc,

JOHN SHEEHAN,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin 14.