LETTER: Oxford vs 'Disneyland' - the spires aren't always inspiring

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The Independent Online
From Dr John Ashworth

Sir: The long overdue debate about what sort of universities we need, how many students they should have, and how we should fund both universities and students will not be advanced by Niall Ferguson's innumerate nonsense ("Oxford? Sorry Prof, I'm into media studies", 1 January).

The UCAS figures, not yet publicly available by the way, cannot show what he claims since there was a change in the application procedure this year. Instead of being invited to choose eight institutions on their application forms, intending students were allowed to choose only six this autumn. A fall in the number of applications of less than 25 per cent, therefore, corresponds to an increase in attractiveness. If applicants have also decreased, then that 25 per cent is also too low.

But, be that as it may, if it turns out that the LSE has a decrease in applications of only 13 per cent, it clearly remains, to use Mr Ferguson's phrase, a "Mecca of studentdom" in the Nineties as it was in the Sixties and, indeed, as it has been since it was founded.

Your faithfully,

John Ashworth


London School of Economics

London, WC2