Let me make two points. First, there needs to be some sort of threshold of achievement for getting into university. Surely we should tackle the problem of under-achieving young people in sink schools in inner- city areas who do not secure the necessary exam grades to go to university. Creating a university admissions system under which
the benchmark examination passes apply only to some people, based on social class, and not to others, is a difficult road because admission to higher education would be based not on achievement but on subjectivity. That is a huge mistake.
My second point, which tends to be missed, is that universities are great changers of social standing. I return to the example of my university friend. He is now a successful business man who lives in the countryside, having benefited from his university career. His children, under the Government's categorisation, are from a traditional background. We tend to forget that if the first person in a family to go to university is a target for social attention, the second generation immediately becomes part of the middle-class rich against whom we should discriminate. There is a danger that universities will be forced constantly to pull up from the bottom, but they are not social engineers; they are engines of achievement for the nation and it worries me profoundly when Labour Members see universities as vehicles to right wrongs lower down the education system.