Letter: A university for the working class

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Sir: I share Professor A. H. Halsey's concern that today's university students include hardly more children from working-class families than 20 years ago (26 August). Nevertheless, there is hope to be found in the educational activities of many 'working-class' children on reaching seasoned adulthood.

The most recent crop of Open University graduates included 26 per cent who could broadly be classified as working class on the basis of the Registrar-General's occupational categories. Other indicators are that more Open University students come from working-class backgrounds than is true of students elsewhere: even for our first student intake, in 1971, when we looked at their fathers' occupations, only 20 per cent of the fathers were in 'middle-class' jobs. Against that, recent (1989) figures from the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys showed that 68 per cent of people continuing their education after leaving school had fathers in professional occupations.

Increasingly, however, there are other ways into higher education than by entry to university at 18, and the Open University is a prime example.

Our 130,000-plus registered students come from a wide cross-section of the community and have wide study interests: 79,000 are working towards BA (Open) degrees, more than 12,000 studying single courses from the degree programme, over 18,000 studying with the Open Business School and some 27,000 engaged in other forms of professional updating, for example in the field of health and social welfare. Another 80,000 will buy self-contained study packs either for career development or to enrich their lifestyles.

Yours faithfully,

JOHN DANIEL

Vice-Chancellor

The Open University

Milton Keynes

28 August

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