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Lord St John of Fawsley, Emmanuel College Cambridge
debates the issue with Labour MP Alan Simpson
 real 28k

Sunday, 28 May, 2000, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Ministers plan anti-elitism campaign
Oxford University
Ministers will target the so-called "old boy network"
The government is to step up its campaign against what the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, has attacked as Oxbridge's "old boy network".

Ministers are expected to develop the equality theme by announcing various initiatives aimed at opening up the UK's top universities to students from less privileged backgrounds.

Mr Brown began the debate with last week's remarks about state schoolgirl Laura Spence failing to gain a university place in Oxford.



The elitist institution really in the spotlight is New Labour.

William Hague

And Tory leader, William Hague, has accused the government of hypocrisy, describing Labour as a "small, trendy, liberal metropolitan elite".

One scheme said to be under government consideration would involve full-time recruitment officers seeking out talented pupils in disadvantaged areas.

That would be similar to a scheme used by Harvard University in the US where Laura Spence has been offered a 65,000 scholarship to study.

Another educational boost may include spending money on special courses, extra lessons and summer schools.


Laura Spence
Laura Spence: Centre of a political storm

And Health Secretary, Alan Milburn, is separately reported to be seeking a substantial expansion this summer of the number of places available to medical students by the NHS.

Mr Milburn told Sky News's Sunday With Adam Boulton programme that "it has got to be right and proper, in this day and age, that a career in medicine is open to the talents of all, providing they have got the capability of doing the job".

Mr Hague highlighted his claims of Labour hypocrisy about its anti-elitism campaign by writing a piece in The News of the World.

Defending Oxford University, he wrote that "the elitist institution really in the spotlight is New Labour.


Oxford University
Oxbridge admission policies are under scrutiny

"The small, trendy, liberal metropolitan elite get it all their way while the views of the great mainstream majority are dismissed as irrelevant, old-fashioned and extremist."

The Leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Jay, defended the chancellor's approach to the Laura Spence affair, during an interview on ITV's Jonathan Dimbleby programme.

She said Mr Brown had highlighted a "very important peculiarity of Oxford University, and indeed Cambridge University, which is that they still only take about half of their entrants from schools which are in the state system, when as we all know over 90% of kids in this country go to state schools".

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See also:

26 May 00 | Education
Chancellor attacks Oxford admissions
26 May 00 | Education
Leak fuels Oxford admissions row
26 May 00 | UK Politics
Seeking Brownie points
26 May 00 | UK
Oxbridge blues, and reds
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