here), I don't think it is the responsibility of universities to ensure they take a cross-section of society. I think they should take the best students who will respond best to what they have to teach them. That won't always be those with the highest grades but the point is they are still adjudged 'the best' from whatever mix of attainment and potential the universities choose to use. The key is they aren't just filling quotas. What they certainly aren't responsible for is their schooling up until university.
Now I know what you're thinking … surely only a total moron would think that it should be up to universities to educate children at school? That would be the job of … er … schools. Yes, schools. They seem ideal candidates for holding the responsibility for teaching children stuff up until university age. They seem to have the children for hours on end per day. They have books, teachers, desks and so forth. Almost ideally suited come to think of it. Well we've got one such moron, Vince's mate Professor Les Ebdon. I forget what the other side of the tawdry Coalition deal was that put the utterly daft Ebdon in charge of the worryingly 1942-esque Office for Fair Access. One hopes for many reasons that the Tories can stop the rot and win an outright majority in 2015. One of the most important is to be able to oust this interfering and utterly misguided man before he does lasting damage to our university system.
Now on the surface one might think that universities helping out preparing school students for the travails of university would be a good idea. But it isn't when it is dictated by political overlords hell bent on social engineering and who hold enormous financial power over said institutions; when part of their budgets is mandated to be used to encourage wider access. This is all just a very large smokescreen to hide the fact that a large proportion of the state system has failed. There are doubtless many state-educated students who do not gain places at university or at a good enough university because their school has not developed them to their full potential. There are also doubtless many students who would likely never be academically gifted enough to study at any university of repute regardless of the teaching standards at their schools.
The lefties, Les included, would rather we didn't discuss that. Nope, they would far rather point out that the only problem is all the evil, rich, elitist scum universities that only want to take thick rich kids, don't care about quality and instead of central heating just burn the poor. It is an incredibly dim view to take of the masters of our universities; quite a charge to lay at their door. But the press and the left lobby do it all day long. Clearly without an ounce of investigation. Go and find out how much universities spend trying to get children from unlikely areas apply. Find out how hard they scrutinise applications and try to discover the real value and the real potential behind the applications from across the spectrum of society. These are professional, caring academics, and they don't deserve the vitriol they are castigated with simply in the name of covering up someone else's failure.
So no, universities should not be targeting children from aged 7 to groom them for university. Schools should. We could call it education. The sooner we get off the case of universities and realise raising the quality of our schools across the board is far more important, the better.