Comments by the vice chancellor of Cambridge University about reducing admissions from independent schools are “Trumpesque ‘fake news’” and “social engineering”, a conference has heard.
In a closing keynote speech to the AMCIS conference this week, Lord Black of Brentwood said that Oxbridge would be the “losers” if they discriminated against the private sector, missing out on “great talent” as a result.
“The brightest and the best must now be thinking: ‘what is the point of Oxbridge?’” he told an audience of school marketing, admissions and communications professionals.
Black, who is deputy chair of the Telegraph Media Group, said: “I am sure I was not alone in being shocked by the Trumpesque ‘fake news’ comments from the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge, Professor Stephen Toope, that – for what are in essence ideological reasons, indeed basically social engineering – that it must be ‘very, very clear we are intending to reduce over time the number of people who are coming from independent school backgrounds into places like Oxford or Cambridge.’”
Black, who is a former director of communications for the Conservative party, added: “But the losers will be Oxbridge who will miss out on great talent: the quality of their applicants will inexorably decline while those from other Universities will rise. The brightest and the best must now be thinking: ‘what is the point of Oxbridge?’ And they would be right… Cambridge [will] slide inexorably down the international league tables – with profound consequences for Britain, culturally, politically, intellectually and economically. It may be too late to fight back – but we should try.”
Lord Black stressed that the independent sector could now “take nothing for granted” in terms of support from politicians, even though its schools could play a vital role contributing to society.
“The independent education sector – which has largely been shielded from political animosity for generations – can take nothing for granted. We can’t even take as a given the continuing support of a Conservative Government which is already sacrificing so many things on the amorphous, rhetorical altar of so-called ‘levelling-up’ instead of preserving the timeless values of individual freedom and liberty.”
Lord Black also addressed the conference about the evolution of school marketing and communications, the growing importance of data and the increased premium on quality journalism.