CAM, the Cambridge Alumni Magazine, carried an interview with Alison Richard, the university vice-chancellor. She had something to say about student fees, private versus state schools, the science/arts balance, and a mention of the Cambridge Schools Classics Project. Here are some of her answers.
Will the University commit itself to admitting a certain percentage of state-school pupils? Absolutely not. But we will certainly have our own goals, because we're committed to recruiting talented students from right across the socio-economic spectrum. …
When it comes to access, isn't Cambridge still on the back foot? Private schools educate only 6 per cent of the school-age population, but commandeer almost half the University's undergraduate places. That's no longer true. Last year 48 per cent of our undergraduates educated in this country came from state schools and 39 per cent from private schools … the relatively low proportion of British students coming from [state] schools is a distressing reflection of the performance of state schools compared to the private sector. That said, in my view the state/private divide is a crude way of thinking about socio-economics, because children who attend private schools are not just the offspring of the well-heeled. Some are on scholarships; some have parents who have scrimped and saved to get them there.
Should Cambridge's top academic and administrative staff continue to send their children to private schools? I don't know where the staff of this university send their children to school. What is clear is that state schools are highly uneven in quality. There are excellent state schools but they are fewer in number than they once were. … Fixing the problems of secondary education cannot be a primary mission for us, but we have a responsibility to help. And that's what we're doing, nationally and locally, through a wonderful array of initiatives such as the Millennium Mathematics Project, the Cmabridge Schools Classics Project, the Multikultur@ language learning scheme and the Cambridge Science Festival.
The magazine ends the interview with this notice: For daily updates on Cambridge news, and links to all colleges and faculties, access www.cam.ac.uk/ For admissions interviews, see the film at www.cam.ac.uk/cambuniv/undergrad/interview/film/