Letter: Admission to the LSE on merit

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The Independent Online
Sir: As someone who once sent his children to Islington state schools and is now a fellow member of the London School of Economics Court of Governors, I am well aware of the past achievements in educational policy-making and the current views on fees of Margaret Hodge MP (Section Two Opinion; "LSE must rule out top-up fees", 4 July).

As a working class kid who luckily got to university in the 1960s, I, like many of my academic colleagues, am working to ensure that admission to the LSE is on merit and potential, not on ability to pay. Indeed, the Academic Board - in voting for top-up fees by a majority of 4:1 - showed it was no longer willing to countenance declining access and degraded educational standards, while intoning meaningless mantras about access, which merely serve to buttress middle class privileges.

Mrs Hodge is right to say that half of the LSE's undergraduates are from public schools, but wrong to say that "the college makes no positive effort to recruit more widely". Our high intake from independent schools owes more to the quality problems in inner city schools and the inadequate maintenance grants and student loans which are the fundamental barriers to access for working class kids today.

We have no control over much of this, but have played a major role in the debate on improving access through a better income-contingent national loan system, enabling students to spread the payments for high duality education from which they will fundamentally benefit.

I hope that our own top-up fees will help finance and extend our initiatives to recruit more widely. I no longer believe politicians will provide adequate funds to do that, as they did for me and many others in the 1960s; but I will be the first to congratulate Mrs Hodge when she persuades her party otherwise and they announce the relevant additional taxation plans.

Professor LESLIE HANNAH

Pro-Director

London School of Economics

London WC2

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