According to Huffington Post, the focus needs to shift from high-achieving students in their final years of education, to primary school pupils in underrepresented areas.
Last week the Sutton Trust released figures showing that eight elite schools sent more students to Oxbridge than 2,900 other schools combined. While the figures are undoubtedly damning, this isn’t anything new.
Admittedly, both universities have made significant announcements which would suggest progress in this area. Cambridge launched its scholarship partnership with Stormzy, while Oxford revealed it spent over £100,000 on each low-income applicant targeted. But Oxbridge inequality is not rooted solely in finances, it starts far younger, and is far more engrained.
If Oxbridge and other top universities genuinely want to widen participation, they need to overhaul how they think about access. The focus needs to shift from high-achieving students in their final years of education, to primary school pupils in underrepresented areas. Target the students who may grow up to never apply in the first place, who don’t bother filling out a UCAS form because “it’s not for people like them”, and who would never consider opening a prospectus.
The disparity in applications is not uniquely to do with wealth, which is why bursaries alone will never fix the gap. It’s far more to do with our environments and familial expectations.
It is difficult to be what you cannot see. Universities, especially Oxbridge, need to be reaching out to the youngest pupils, helping them mark out a path and then guiding them to their great, gated doorsteps.
Do you agree? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Emma
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