Today at 10.30am about 800 students gathered on the lawn of the senate house at Cambridge Universtiy to protest against top-up fees.
In marked contrast to the ICU protest the cambridge students aim was a noisy demonstration; protestors armed with trombones drums whistles and the like began, on mass, to create as much noise as possible lasting for 10 minuets.
Of course Cambridge is an elite institution. You'd have to be a complete tool to think that every university in the country teaches degrees to the same standard - noone claims that they do, so why do people have a problem using the correct term, 'elite' for universities such as Imperial, Oxford, Cambridge, etc?
The use of the word elite to describe something which is clearly superior to something else shouldn't be frowned upon; if there was any suggestion that Cambridge was being 'elitist', though, that would be a completely different matter. This is quite far from the reality; Cambridge is the only university (Not just the SU) yet to come out in opposition to topup fees, so can hardly be accused of trying to maintain any unfair advantage which richer applicants would have over less well off applicants.
Idris, something like 90% of us came to Imperial precisely because it is an academically elite institutions.
I agree with Mr Clarke's comments as quoted in your article. We need academcially elite insitutitons and we should not use funding formulas for former poly's as a straight jacket. We should promote our elite institutions and provide them with the funding they need, not force them to charge huge top-ups which would make them socially, rather than academically, elite.
Sorry - alcohol talking louder than brains there (I do have one: the rumours about medics aren't all true).
Nia has got my original gist totally: by using the word "elite" Clarke is potentially painting us and other similar institutions as exclusive as well as excellent academically. He could have said, "They do a good job," but he didn't; he used the word, "Elite," which is rather different and has wider connotations as Nia has identified.