You May Soon Be Able to Buy Your Way Into Oxford

British lawmakers propose to reserve admission to top universities for wealthy students who can pay upfront

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You might remember that the United Kingdom hosted an accidentally pretty violent series of student protests over tuition last December. The proposed university tuition hikes were set to pass Parliament and further widen the gulf between the Oxbridge elite and everyone else in Britain. Photos from the demonstrations show battered co-eds spitting blood, riot-geared cops swinging clubs on horseback and a one very scared Prince Charles hiding in his Rolls Royce while bonfires billowed before Big Ben.

The tuition hikes narrowly passed in Parliament, and now it looks like populists will have even more to complain about. Yesterday, The Guardian reported that some British lawmakers want to reserve spots at the nation's top universities for students who can afford to pay even higher tuition fees upfront. It's sort of like Harvard publicly announcing they'll open a side door for kids whose daddies can write fat checks. Even though this evidently already happens behind the scenes, it just gets all kinds of crazy when the government endorses the practice.

Of the many who expressed outrage over the new plan, the chief of the University and College Union said it best:

We risk turning the clock back to a time when breeding rather than brains were required to get on in life. The news is particularly embarrassing for the Liberal Democrats as all their MPs pledged to vote, and campaign, against higher fees… Increasing fees for wealthy students to ensure them access to our most prestigious universities goes even further than their original breaking of the pledge and sends an extraordinary message to students from less wealthy backgrounds.

Proponents of the new plans insist that the current admissions requirements will remain in place and that administrators will work harder to increase the number of places for low income students suggesting that charities or even future potential employers could pay their tuition. Further, the new spots would be limited to the most competitive universities like Oxford and Cambridge, and the new premium tuition would equal what international students pay. More details of the plan will be released in a white paper due out this summer.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.