Thursday, October 28, 1999 Published at 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Minister supports change to Oxbridge MA degrees
Oxford is opposed to changing the awarding of masters degrees
Education Minister Malcolm Wicks has backed calls for Oxford and Cambridge universities to stop selling masters degrees to their graduates.
In response to a question in the House of Commons, he said "the public have the right to expect that across the board of British universities, a BA, a BSc or an MA really means something".
But he added that the awarding of MAs was "essentially a matter for the university".
Mr Wicks' comments follow a call last week from the university standards' watchdog for an end to "unearned" degrees.
At presents, students graduating from Oxford and Cambridge with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree can acquire a Master of Arts (MA) without undertaking any further academic work - they simply need to pay a small administration charge.
'Title not wholly deserved'
Obtaining the same qualification at other universities means a year's postgraduate work, with the likelihood of assessed work, dissertations and exams.
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education wants to remove the anomaly of unearned degrees and to create a standardised framework for qualifications.
Mr Wicks was responding to comments made by Labour MP for Cambridge, Anne Campbell, who said she had an MA from Cambridge, but said: "Many of us feel that this title is not wholly deserved."
He said: "Having in my earlier career taught a two excellent British universities, when I taught postgraduate students, I know that when they got their masters degree they'd actually studied for it, worked very hard and earned it."