Personal tools
 
Views

Debate: Abolition of Oxbridge

From Debatepedia

Jump to: navigation, search
[Digg]
[reddit]
[Delicious]
[Facebook]

Should the college fee and special privileges of Oxford and Cambridge be abandoned?

Background and context

Oxford and Cambridge differ from most (but not all) UK universities because they teach under a ‘collegiate’ and ‘tutorial’ system. This means that each undergraduate is taught by the fellows in small groups or one-on-one, rather than in the large seminar or lecture groups of other universities. Since World War II this system has been subsidised by the state through the ‘college fee’, a supplementary per-student amount that supports the extra costs incurred. Since Labour came to power in 1997 this fee is being phased out but it is not the only extra funding that Oxbridge receives. Under the complex rules which govern higher education funding, Oxford and Cambridge still receive 50-60% more than the average university through a combination of ‘old buildings’ and ‘small institutions’ subsidies. This extra funding upsets Oxbridge’s opponents, especially when they have a questionable record on admitting students from poorer backgrounds and minorities. In the context of the debate over student fees and so-called ‘top-up fees’ higher education funding is still considered to be in flux. The question is therefore whether Oxbridge should retain a privileged position or should the funding rules be changed to equalise the playing field.

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]

Argument #1

[Add New]

Yes

Equality is a basic principle of democratic societies. From this it is clear that the government should spend the same amount on each person’s university education, regardless of which university they attend.

[Add New]

No

Not everyone goes to university so we don’t spend the same amount on each person’s education. Only those qualified to go to university get the money. Once at university, students receive different levels of funding because some courses cost much more to provide than others (e.g. medicine or engineering cost several times as much per student as English or History). This is no different than those who qualify to go to Oxbridge receiving extra funding. As merit is the criteria for admission, everyone has an equal opportunity to receive the funding.

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Argument #2

[Add New]

Yes

Money spent on Oxbridge can’t be spent on other universities. This helps them preserve their advantage in research and teaching over these other universities. If the funding is spread more widely then other universities may be able to ‘catch-up’ to Oxbridge standard.

[Add New]

No

Without the extra-funding standards at Oxford and Cambridge may decline. As they are in international research competition with the best universities in the world, this could lead to the UK losing all its best minds to abroad. For the UK to keep pace in international research, it needs to maintain well-funded elite institutions. Oxbridge already pays academics much less than they could receive at top institutions in Europe or America.

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Argument #3

[Add New]

Yes

The very idea of ‘elite’ institutions distorts the process of applications. Special disciplines are often better taught and resourced at specialist institutions like the Schools of Oriental and African Studies or Imperial College. However the reputation of specialist institutions is often eclipsed by the perception that Oxbridge is best regardless. This can mean that other universities are robbed of their best potential students.

[Add New]

No

By grouping a variety of disciplines together Oxford and Cambridge help to promote inter-disciplinary studies. It is expensive to offer such a wide range of subjects and if this subsidy is removed then it is the less popular or more expensive (often science) subjects that will be dropped, resulting in universities with a narrow focus being most successful. This would rob research of the potential illuminating insights from other disciplines.

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section up]

Argument #4

[Add New]

Yes

Oxford and Cambridge have the largest endowments of any UK university. If every other university can survive on lower government funding, then surely Oxbridge can too. If they can’t, then this is probably because the collegiate system is wasteful and poorly organised. Colleges have frequently blocked the universities’ plans for reforms (e.g. of the admissions system) and have been unwilling to share their resources with less wealthy colleges. Only financial realities will force the colleges to reform.

[Add New]

No

Oxbridge endowments are already employed to support the education of their students. By removing government subsidy you will force cuts in teaching provision, not just remove slack from the system. Comparable institutions like Yale and Harvard have much larger endowments on which to draw. While all universities should be encouraged to foster private endowment it can not be expected to replace state subsidy, even at the richest institutions.

See also

External links and resources

Books

Problem with the site? 

Tweet a bug on bugtwits
.