Letter: Sic transit Oxbridge

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Sir: I'm afraid (and sad) that I was only amused by your report "Oxbridge `no longer elite universities' " (22 April). Your report was certainly accurate, although I would claim that Yale and Harvard are only two of very many world-class teaching and research institutions in the United States, including Princeton and the University of California; and that in many fields even they cannot easily claim to be the best.

But this is very old news. For many years, even decades, American scholarship has led the world, and the top US universities have been considered centres of research for the sciences, mathematics, classics, linguistics, philosophy and others.

I was one of many mathematicians who left Britain during the Eighties and Nineties when cuts in funding at all levels of education made it clear that academic research and teaching were no longer valued. Not only did the United States live up to its promise as a land of plenty, but when I was faced with the choice of returning to England or staying in California to work, the country which had most actively displayed its appreciation of my talents became my adopted homeland.

Britain still educates the top 5 per cent of its population better than any other elite class in the world. But in all other areas of education its crown was long ago passed on.


San Francisco