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Test 1 / 25

Union Street Cafe

Four critics comment on the restaurant

Critic A
If any among you still doubt that David Beckham is an exceedingly smart cookie, members of the jury, allow me to submit the clinching evidence. A few weeks ago, the Daily Mirror recently reported, he withdrew as an investor in his chum Gordon Ramsay’s Union Street Cafe, which opened in Southwark on Monday. The Mirror did not explain why, revealing only that the two men ‘wanted different things’. We could speculate for hours about what that means, but let me posit this theory: Beckham wanted a really good restaurant and Ramsay wanted something else. This is not to suggest he wanted a really bad restaurant. Eccentric as his psycho shtick may make him appear, he is not clinically insane, and this newbie, his I Oth in Britain, is far from atrocious. It would be more endearing, or at least more memorable if it were. What makes it so irksome is the so-what-ishness of this rather brand-new restaurant.

Critic B
Here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to close my eyes, stick my fingers in my ears and pretend I don’t know that this big, new, shiny restaurant in Southwark has anything to do with Gordon Ramsay. Otherwise, it’s impossible to approach without being blind-sided by the baggage trailed in his wake. He’s the tallest of poppies, our Gordon; everybody lining up to give him a trampling. So let’s make believe that Union Street Cafe is brought to us by nice, anonymous people intent on giving us fine food and a good time. You in? This is Big Sweary’s first opening without his eminence grise pa-in-law, with whom he fell out in spectacular, Greek tragedian fashion. Sorry, I’ll try again. it’s all cheery bustle in this high-windowed and handsome room, more New York than London, in its studied mix of haute-industrial and luxury: ducting and concrete, framing well-spaced tables and designer leather chairs. The open kitchen is set on high, pulpit-style; inside is chef Davide Degiovanni, formerly of the Four Seasons. it’s a telling piece of recruitment: despite the warehouse disguise, this is not about the grunge.

Critic C
Union Street Cafe is not a cafe and isn’t strictly in Union Street (see address below) but it’s certainly the most talked-about and ‘in’ new restaurant for the autumn. This, you’ll doubtless know, is because it was rumoured that its owner, David Beckham, the former footballer who once had a trial with Rangers, was going into partnership with Gordon Ramsay, the well-known foodie. Why this macho convergence would have made for an ideal restaurant, is hard to fathom. Have we got a picture in our heads of Victoria in a lace pinny, sulkily announcing the daily specials? No? Just me, then. But it doesn’t matter now, because Beckham chose not to invest any dosh. So the USC is just a new Gordon Ramsay joint, in a funny part of town. Great Suffolk Street isn’t hopelessly grotty, just a bit down-at-heel. lt, and Union Street which it bisects, are in the heart of Southwark, the raffish heart of Olde South London that’s now so trendy, bounded by Tate Modern, Borough Market, Guy’s Hospital and the London Dungeon. I think it appealed to Gordon because it’s London’s version of Brooklyn; edgy, but without the West End’s gleam and swagger. And there’s a famous Union Street in Brooklyn.

Critic D
David Beckham pulled out at the last minute, but that hasn’t stopped a rush for tables at Gordon Ramsay’s new venture; and the fact that Union Street Cafe is doing brisk trade, proves that Ramsay himself retains impressive pulling power. With its casual urban setting and emphasis on Italian cooking, this venue marks a welcome departure for the megastar chef, who has drafted in Davide Degiovanni to head up the kitchen. Expect small portions of accomplished, ingredients-led dishes, ranging from intensely flavoured tagliolini with rabbit and provolone, or lamb cutlets with baked fennel and onion, to Amaretto and chocolate budino, a deliriously rich, custardy dolce. Switched-on young staff in casual garb are a good fit for the restaurant’s warehouse-chic theme and there are cocktails aplenty in the basement bar. ‘I absolutely loved the whole package,’ said one fan.

Which critic…

makes inferences to New York in their review when discussing the restaurant's decor, like reviewer B?
Critic C
like reviewer A, suggests that the public might lack sympathy with Ramsay's public persona?
Critic B
disagrees with the other three reviewers, believing Ramsay's new restaurant to be not particularly fashionable?
Critic A
like reviewer C, believes that having a famous owner, has helped the popularity of the restaurant?
Critic D
Test 2 / 25

Should university education be free of charge?

In most countries, students have to pay fees to study at university but there are some countries where the state guarantees a free higher education to all citizens with appropriate qualifications. Should free university education be a universal right? Four students give their views.

Free university education should be a universal right, but it makes sense for other reasons too. It gives talented people, irrespective of background, the opportunity to gain the knowledge, skills and qualifications that countries need citizens to have if they are to compete in the modern global economy. It enables the less affluent to break out of the class they are born into and keeps society dynamic and aspirational. The state funding that allows free access also lets universities focus on what they do best, research and teaching, rather than administering fee payment and searching for private sponsorship. Claims that governments are no longer able to pay for free higher education because of competing demands on public finances conveniently ignore the fact that universities are free in some awful countries. Any government with the will to do so – and surveys suggest they would be supported by the wider population – could shift spending away from unproductive sectors like defence and into higher education.

There is little doubt that degree programmes benefit from the level of state funding that is necessary to make higher education free for all. Where universities are largely self-financing, inordinate time, energy and talent is invested in attracting fee-paying students and research-supporting corporate investors. The fact that a number of countries around the world offer free university education of a very high standard proves that it is still a viable proposition, but it would undoubtedly be difficult for a country to change to such a system. Free higher education is ultimately paid for by taxes, and, in this day and age, taxpayers are generally unwilling to pay more, particularly if it is to enable young people, mostly from well-off backgrounds, to qualify for lucrative employment. The idea that free higher education benefits anyone apart from those who would attend fee-paying degree courses anyway is largely illusory.

State-funded, free university education is a fine idea in principle. Besides giving all individuals the opportunity to become, more knowledgeable and cultured, it also frees universities from the messy, distracting business of having to find ways to finance their work and allows them to focus on enhancing the student experience and carrying out research. The reality, however, is that the cost of paying for higher education is ruinously high for the state. Public-sector debt in many countries is astronomical, and governments have no choice but to prioritise spending. Unfortunately, higher education comes low down on the list of priorities. Also, the evidence suggests that people who want to go to university will generally find a way to finance themselves, whatever their class or background. Fee-paying does not particularly encourage underprivileged youngsters into higher education but neither does free university access.

In most modern economies, free university education is an illusion. Governments find it hard to provide adequate funds for healthcare, let alone a non-essential service like universities, and trying to convince people they should pay more taxes to finance university students is doomed to failure. States need university-educated citizens, but graduates can afford to pay for themselves, either up-front because of family background or retrospectively by paying off loans. Fee-paying makes no substantial difference to the number of people attending universities, and the figures suggest that people from particular socio-economic backgrounds are neither put off university by having to pay for it nor motivated to attend by having free access. In those countries where university fees have recently been introduced, the impact on universities themselves has been striking. Free of state influence, they have realised that they will only stay in business if they provide an excellent service to their clients, the students.

Which expert

takes a similar view to A about whether the state can afford to finance free higher education?
Expert B
has a different opinion from the others about how state funding might affect the quality of university education?
Expert D
has a different view from the others regarding the implications of free university education for social mobility?
Expert A
shares D's opinion about public attitudes regarding free university education?
Expert B