Ruby Woolfe is right when she says that there are lots of private summer schools at Oxbridge colleges (Oxbridge summer schools should be for the disadvantaged, not the wealthiest, 7 August). I run a small charity helping students from ex-industrial parts of Yorkshire get to leading universities; we cohabit with private summer schools in Cambridge every summer. Many cost, for three or four weeks, what parents of some of our students earn in eight months. But it is not true to say that they always elbow out less-advantaged students.
Our friends at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, host us entirely free of charge for 10 days every year. If they put fee-paying summer schools in the rooms instead they would make a large five-figure sum. But they don’t. Instead, they take huge trouble to make sure everything is right, from sandwich fillings to talks from the vice-master that I know have transformed lives.
Our students go away feeling that for 10 days they owned something that had been beyond their comprehension.
They go on to apply to Cambridge in great numbers and 44% win offers – twice the national average. None of this would be possible without Trinity Hall.Paul Coupar-HennessyExecutive director, Linacre Institute
• Alfie Packham (Is a university degree really worth it any more? Journal, 12 August) makes a characteristic mistake in treating degree education as a matter of employment prospects. There are many additional benefits – for example, while it is entirely possible to develop analytic and critical skills in other ways, a degree course is the most obvious and most straightforward way to do so. There is also the life-enriching benefit of having a deep understanding of one’s chosen subject, be this in a scientific, humanities or business area, which often extends well beyond the needs of one’s employment.
Mr Packham also ignores the societal benefits of higher education – deepening and broadening the pool of individuals able to engage critically with complex issues. Also, while he is correct to point out that further education offers a wide range of valuable alternatives to a degree, he is quite wrong in polarising distance and online courses against degree education – many universities nowadays offer their degrees online.Paul GriseriLa Genétouze, France
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