Leading Article: Mandelson needs to take care on admissions

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In his first big speech on higher education this week at Birkbeck College in London, Lord Mandelson, the Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, endorsed Alan Milburn's desire to see universities using more "contextual" information to admit students from poorer backgrounds. That is shorthand for universities, particularly top universities, admitting disadvantaged students on lower A-level grades than applicants from successful schools.

This amounts to a policy of positive discrimination. It may be justifiable for universities to have such a policy for a while. But we need to remember that university entrance tests in the US were introduced after the Jewish lobby complained that jews were being denied places at universities because white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant families had the system sewn up.

Universities need to be careful that with such reform they do not entrench another set of rights and privileges.