Top universities to give more places to disadvantaged
Top universities in England have been told to significantly increase places for disadvantaged youngsters.
The university watchdog, the Office for Students, wants the “access gap” between wealthier and poorer students to be halved in five years.
Young people from affluent areas are six times more likely to get places at the most selective universities.
“It is damning for the sector that large gaps still remain,” said Universities Minister Chris Skidmore.
“We cannot let this talent be wasted.”
But private schools’ leaders said universities should not “discriminate” against their pupils.
The Office for Students said despite an increase in the overall number of students, the proportion of disadvantaged students in most selective universities had “hardly changed”.
It said the widest gaps, between numbers of the most and least advantaged, were at Imperial College London, Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, the London School of Economics and University College London.
Oxford recruits 15 students from the most advantaged areas for every one student from the least advantaged – with a target of reducing the ratio to eight to one.
If targets are not reached in 2025, the Office for Students could in theory levy fines, although it has so far not used such powers.
The watchdog said its targets would mean another 6,500 disadvantaged students getting places in leading universities after five years, with the expectation many of these would come from the North of England, the Midlands and the South West.
But unless universities increase their overall numbers, this would mean a squeeze on places for middle-class pupils and those from London and the South East.
Mike Buchanan, executive director of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference group of independent schools, said young people should not be discriminated against because of the “class they were born into”.
Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-51281716