Letter: Luton's top-flight students

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The Independent Online
I am glad you thought it worthwhile to write about Luton and its university, but the reference to Alan Smithers's remarks spoilt the complimentary tone ("A degree from where?", Review, 23 June):"However laudable it may be for Luton to 'add value' by educating people with unconventional backgrounds or people from the national university-entry clearing system, Alan Smithers argues ... a university needs its quota of top-flight students and top-flight graduates."

This is insulting to those from "unconventional" backgrounds in its assumption that they cannot be "top flight". A few MPs (John Major claims to be one) have made it to the top with "unconventional" backgrounds; and many more fail to do so because they have suffered educational, economic and cultural disadvantage all their lives.

Twenty years ago it was almost impossible to get into university if you came from the "lower" occupational groups; if you added the disadvantage of being black then it was a miracle. Luton is playing its part in helping a better mix of "top-flight" individuals to make their mark.

Professor Alison Assiter

University of Luton, Beds