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There’s nothing wrong with Prince ‘one-A’ William studying at Cambridge

7 January 2014

Prince William has arrived in Cambridge today to study agricultural management at Cambridge. According to the Guardian  his admission is ‘an insult to every student, whatever their background, who got into Cambridge by getting the required A-level or degree results’. The average Cambridge undergraduate had to get A*AA at A-Level to secure their place, but Prince William got one ‘A’, a ‘B’ and a ‘C’.

What no one mentions is that Prince William’s course isn’t an undergraduate one, and neither are his A-Levels his most relevant qualifications. He’ll be studying a ‘bespoke’ concoction run by the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership. The most similar “commoners’ option” I could find is the Department of Land Economy’s 2-year MSt course in Sustainability Leadership. The sole entry requirement is at least a 2.i honours degree. Prince William has a 2.i  degree from St Andrew’s, in the highly relevant discipline of Geography – sounds kosher to me.

Once you’re over the minimum entry threshold, as William is, the Oxbridge admissions system is hard to predict. Unlike at other universities, there’s no separate admissions office: the academics themselves choose the students they’d most like to teach. The applicants with the highest marks don’t always get picked – see Laura Spence’s much-publicised failure to secure a place to read Medicine at Oxford. The academics admitting Prince William will have spent their professional lives researching agricultural management – perhaps they rather fancied the idea of imparting their advice and knowledge to the man who will become Britain’s biggest landowner.

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So there’s nothing dodgy about Cambridge giving William a place. There’s no denying, though, that universities’ main motivation in running these taught masters courses is financial. For faculties like Cambridge’s Department of Technology, with which Prince William will be studying, letting fee-paying students buy their way on to taught masters courses is one of the few ways they can fund themselves. Oxford’s internationally renowned Faculty of Oriental Studies is in the same boat – 206 faculty members, but just 41 undergraduates a year (most future Orientalists start off with Classics, History or Modern Languages). Salaries have to be paid and research has to be funded, and wealthy graduate students – usually internationals, rather than royals – bring in a bit of money.

Professor Ross Anderson, of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory, defended the university’s decision to take Prince William by saying that he and his colleagues ‘sometimes organise special courses for people from industry who want to learn about the latest research in our field. For this we charge them money. Every academic has the right to do this.’ If the Cambridge Computer Lab needs to take a few ‘people who are prepared to pay’ to balance the books, just imagine what the situation must be like in the Theology department.

With so little academic funding available, especially for the Arts, we can’t begrudge universities the acceptance of a few students for financial reasons. It doesn’t affect the undergraduate admissions process, and the best graduates will be able to secure external support. Oxford and Cambridge are primarily centres of research, which has to be paid for somehow.

It’s commendable that Prince William wants to learn to manage the land with which he will be entrusted in a sustainable fashion, and Cambridge have nothing to be ashamed of in taking him. The only disappointment is that our future monarch settled for second-best with his choice of university.

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Show comments
  • WillsYah

    You don’t think a geography degree is relevant to sustainability? Oh, please Carola Binney – do you think geography students sit around all day memorizing the highest peaks and State capitals?

  • David Booth.

    A 2:1 from St Andrews and the Prince can fly a multi million pound helicopter. The RAF don’t trust those things to “Duck Eggs” I don’t suppose there are that many at the perennially outraged Guardian who can match the Prince. Leave the man alone.

  • Ron Todd

    What can he learn about agriculture at a posh Cambridge college that he could not learn on the job starting by shoveling manure?

    1. How to maximise EU grants for growing stuff.
    2. How to maximise EU grants for not growing stuff.
    3. How to get maximum income from windmills.
    4. How to get maximum rent from the tenants
    5. How to minimise .the tax bill.

  • John Border

    Well I suppose your censorship keeps you away from tugging your todger.

  • John Border

    Of course a 2:1 from St Andrews is at least the equal of an Oxford first so thats fine.

  • John Border

    Of course, a St Andrew’s 2:1 is harder to get than an Oxford First, as it is more demanding. So on those grounds this nepotism is OK.

    But by taking this place he will deprive someone more needy, more useful to society, from taking this place. And that is wrong. He already takes state handouts aplenty; this is a graft too far.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Away from home, surrounded by hot-to-trot crumpet. Like arriving in Heaven while side-stepping that distasteful process of dying. Windsor family values.

    • George Smiley

      Will you stop polluting the pages of the Spectator will utter dross, like you did on the Telegraph and on the Independent?

  • John Lea

    Of course he’s been allowed in on merit. In much the same way that Pippa Middleton is just another run-of-the-mill trainee journalist who went through a rigorously fair recruitment process before being offered lucrative job offers by Waitrose and, er, this magazine. How dare people suggest otherwise.

    • Tom Tom

      Pippa is The Waitrose Girl as Portillo was the Milky Bar Kid

      • John Lea

        What gets me, old boy, is that people wrongly assume that she gets these lucrative jobs simply because she’s the future queen’s sister and a shameless media attention seeker. People forget that she has a degree in something or other from somewhere or other.

        • John Border

          Yes, St Andrew’s- a world class university.

          • John Lea

            No, old chap, that’s William your thinking of. Do keep up.

            • John Border

              I think you’ve not had any kind of education, which is why you’re incoherent.

              Do fork off!

  • Eddie

    Oxbridge is massively over-rated – but it does have the name and reputation.
    They like letting in mouthy future ‘leaders’ (ie Bull-shters) who can blag. I knew several people like that there: gobby, arrogant, with a sense of entitlement as big as their parents’ houses…

    These days, course, they are also achingly pc – so they let in very in mediocre ethnic minority students who wouldn’t get in if they were white.

    So that’s it then – William must have blacked up for the interview and said something like: ‘Booyakkashak, I is well jelly o’ mandem at Cambridge, coz in Aberdeen dem well butters, innit?!’

    • Tom Tom

      You seem so well-informed you must have been at Teddy Hall or Brookes

    • Makroon

      Hi Godfrey, you’re a card. Loved it when you heckled that reptile Turner.

  • jazz606

    “…..Cammbridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership…..”

    Which is yuck speak for….what?

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    The kid`s got to do something with his time. Kate`s the one that should be nervous.

  • Daniel Maris

    “Once you’re over the minimum entry threshold, as William is, the Oxbridge admissions system is hard to predict.”

    Don: Are you a Prince?

    Wills: Yes.

    Don: OK, you’re in.

  • Jambo25

    What on earth is the problem? The man has a 2.1 in a reputable subject from a highly prestigious university. More than enough to get into a Masters course, even at Footlights College, Cambridge.

    • Owen Spedding

      I came here to say the same thing, once you’ve done a degree the it eclipses your A levels. I’m sure I could do a French course at a Cambridge college course on a Wednesday evening – would people be outraged at my A level results?

    • Terry Field

      A 2:1?
      Genetic engineering?

      • Jambo25

        Yes! really.

      • First L

        A 2:1 from St Andrews. Not to be sniffed at.

        • Tom Tom

          What’s your handicap ? Golf i mean

          • First L

            Probably in the low hundreds. Ghastly game.

  • RavenRandom

    Agreed I’m no fan of privilege but a university degree supersedes A levels, not to mention ten years work experience. I don’t think anybody would begrudge a place at Cambridge on a specialist course to someone with ten years work experience and a 2.1 from a good university under normal circumstances. This is just bile from the bitter.

  • itdoesntaddup

    WiIl he make the Blue boat or Goldie? Isn’t that what the Land Economy department is for?

  • LadyDingDong

    I have sent managers on development courses to: Sloane (MIT), Harvard, London Business School, INSEAD and the IMD Business School in Switzerland – 5 of the most prestigious graduate establishments in the world. A number of the managers I sent did not even have degrees and one, to my certain knowledge, not even ‘A’ levels. The average cost of each course was around £15-25,000. If our future king cannot attend one of our top universities without a bunch of lefties and the Guardian getting their knickers in a twist, what would the response have been if he had gone to a foreign university to study his agriculture course?

    • Tom Tom

      Should have sent them on the course named after Alfred Sloan instead of the square in yuppie London. Development courses are cash generators to extract money from networking executives who trade on the reputation the MBAs generate -and they have degrees. HBS loves the money the AMPs generate which is why it built Spangler and now Tata Hall

  • HJ777

    In any case, he got his ‘A’ levels before the A* grade was introduced and there has also been considerable grade inflation since he took his.

    Anyone would think that academic merit was always the sole criterion for entry to Cambridge. Not so very long ago certain schools had reserved places at particular colleges, so many were let in with pretty poor ‘A’ levels.

    • Terry Field

      I always understood that Oxbridge offered many places to the socially well placed but unintelligent, and has a very low pass mark – I heard 28% some years ago, as a ‘pass’ degree mark.
      Maybe it has changed – I bet it has not though.
      Britain is largely owned and controlled by the silly and the quite unintelligent.
      That is why it is the mess it is and mostly always has been.

      • Tom Tom

        Do tell. I know it is pressured by the Foreign Office to let the dim Nigerian, Chinaman, or such in just as Mandelson arranged for LSE to sort out a PhD thesis for Ghadaffi’s son.

        Oxford does however live on recruiting top-grade students and expecting them to perform, though I confess I found many dimwits from affluence seemed to decorate the place and some moved to the Commons and the Lords with quite a few going into The City and getting very well-heeled so they could buy their dims”it children into Oxford…….not worth going into names now they are collecting gongs and getting editorials about their magnificence

        • Terry Field

          Oh yes there are many very clever folk at Oxford and Cam, but I always understood they services the upper echelons with ‘easy access’ degrees as required. yOu seem to have confirmed this,

          • itdoesntaddup

            One A level Polly Toynbee was granted a place at Oxford. She didn’t last the course though.

            • Tom Tom

              St Anne’s as i recall and failed Prelims twice

        • HJ777

          I’m sure that Oxford generally does as you say.

          However, not always. You will recall, to give just one example, that Andy Triggs-Hodge previously of Staffordshire University was admitted to study for a Masters in ‘Water Management and Policy’ – by coincidence, he just happened already to be an international rower.

    • Tom Tom

      Art History hardly merits being called an A-level even if Cameron counts it like his cousin Prince Will

      • pearlsandoysters

        Art History seems to be a soft option, what degree(s) should be merit attention then?

        • Tom Tom

          Degree ? We are speaking of A-Levels here

  • Tom Tom

    Ah Carola, where are you Hertford College ? Are you perchance related to Jeffrey Binney, Professor of Astrophysics at Oxford ? As for Prince William. who cares ? We know his A-levels aren’t as good as yours and his father is better connected than yours, so why the fuss ? Prince Charles was no great academic wonder at Cambridge but it survived

    • Colonel Mustard

      Judging by the articles she has written so far she seems to be still spiritually living at university. Like those Harry Potter parents who live vicariously through their children’s private schools and enclose three pages of family boasting with their Christmas cards.

      As a history graduate I hope she soon writes an article about how socialists have f***ed up Britain.

  • Ricky Strong

    A friend of mine summarised it rather well; “Cambridge students shocked as they discover coming from a privileged background can open doors …..”

  • HookesLaw

    The Guardian and other critics just make big fools of themselves.

    • realfish

      …and their hypocrisy is, as usual, laid bare. Forgetting, as they did, that one of theirs, one Polly Toynbee, managed to get herself into Oxford with one ‘A’ level.

      • Dicky14

        And I think she was either sent down or just quit before graduating. I have it in mind that Milimajor was accepted with 2 D’s but that may have been Oxford.

      • Makroon

        She may have had a “little help from her friends/relatives”.

  • Terry Field

    Oh God when will the Grauniad be banned for crimes against pleasure.
    It is like Cromwell on a bad day, but all the time.
    Obviously he is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but that is not relevant.
    He is a much loved Prince and he will probably be a new King William, after Charles III and before whatshisname – the new one.
    They are an Estate in the panoply of British life.
    They are to be respected as such.
    It is nothing that he can appear at one of our best Universities to work out where cows udders are and what to do with wheat.
    He is hardly going to join the NFU and start mucking out.
    Its just a form of union between Monarchy and Eduction, and that is quite pleasant; not significant for his royalness nor for Cambridge, but it’s February nearly and its something to talk about with the Blue Rinses when they come to tea,
    And what’s wrong with that????

  • Alex

    I’m more concerned about the course being set up by the ‘Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership’.
    ‘Sustainability’ is a buzzword that I tend to associate with left-leaning, anti-business, anti-science, tree-hugging, peasantry-worshipping eco-loonery. I fear his father is being a bad influence on him.

    • Terry Field

      Sod all is ‘sustanable’.
      Only marketeers and other liars say it means anything.

      • HookesLaw

        Funny… I only recently came form a little display by my grand daughter’s class where they sang a merry little ditty about the hydrological cycle.

        • Tom Tom

          print the lyrics in binary

          • HookesLaw

            You prompted me to look – there are several different songs out there, if you care to look – but not the one I heard.

        • Terry Field

          Water water everywhere and not a drop to drink???

          That’s Global warming for you.

          I be there were ‘floods’ of eager parents ‘wetting themselves’ and ‘dissolving’ into tears.

          Makes one reach for ‘liquid’ refreshment.

          • HookesLaw

            And your point is?
            The plain fact is we have the carbon cycle the water cycle and the life cycle of the bee – which we very much need to live. Plus other cycles within nature. And we live within all that and no matter if you are left or right wing its not a sin to seek to conserve resources – ie be sustainable.
            Like everything else it can be twisted by anyone to sustain their prejudice.

            • Terry Field

              If you wish to conserve , then HAVE FEWER CHILDREN and then DIE YOUNGER. You are part of the hive virus of the world.
              And you are a viral element with absolutely NO sense of Humour. Are you of the Kraut tribe?

              • John Border

                Hmmm…racist bleatings are so unwelcome.

                Its a shame your parents didnt follow your wise advice about breeding…sigh..

  • kyalami

    Golly. Looking at that photograph, his bodyguards are getting on a bit.

    What happened to his career as a helicopter pilot?

    • Terry Field

      The one on the left is the Procter, and the one on the right is the Gamble.
      Come to think of it, the whole thing is a bit of a gamble!

  • CharlietheChump

    I’m talking about real Uni’s of course, not the ex – Poly pretend ones.

  • CharlietheChump

    All Universities should be free of government interference and privately funded.

    • Tom Tom

      Harvard is private but funded by massive Defence Dept grants and a Govt subsidised Student Loan system

      • The Laughing Cavalier

        Actually, its endowment alone is sufficient to fund Harvard.

        • Tom Tom

          Harvard does not spend its endowment, it grows it. The Us Government has a $1 Trillion Student loan book to fund students at state and Private Universities. MIT, Mellon-Carnegie and UT are Top-100 Defence Contractors. MIT was the largest R&D Centre in the USA at the end of WW2 with over $1.2 bn in research revenues by 1946 at 2012 prices. In 1987 alone MIT received $400 million.

          The US subsidises industry and university through the Defence Budget because it has DARPA a d Europe has very little Defence research

      • Antone Martinho III

        Harvard currently has a system where the Feds inform Harvard how much loan support each student would need, and then Harvard just gives the students that much money as a free grant. You are right that most private American universities use Federal loans, but Harvard has enough money now to fund everyone internally.

        • Tom Tom

          I like that, they should have funded me instead of jacking up fees 23% in one year to cover the shortfall on previous years

    • Terry Field

      Why????? it is much more fun to screw things around and destroy the lives of millions. Good governance would be no fun at all.

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