The Telegraph is reporting warnings from the Government’s higher education access tsar that leading universities must make “further, faster change” to their admissions to engineer a more socially-balanced intake…
Prof Les Ebdon, head of the Office for Fair Access, said there was “a lot further to go” to ensure poor students are properly represented in England’s most sought-after institutions.
The comments were made despite the publication of a report showing that Russell Group universities are already attempting to meet almost 350 different targets designed to create a balanced student body.
Figures show more than half of leading universities, including Cambridge, Durham, Exeter, King’s College London and University College London, have set themselves a specific target to increase the proportion of places awarded to pupils from state schools.
All Russell Group members are also explicitly targeting students from poor families, while others are attempting to boost numbers based on applicants’ ethnicity, gender and age.
The disclosure lays bare the extent to which England’s most sought-after universities are attempting to engineer a more socially-balanced intake in return for the right to charge up to £9,000-a-year in tuition fees.
In all, more than eight-in-10 admissions targets set by English universities in 2012/13 – the first year of higher fees – were hit, according to OFFA.
Institutions also significantly increased the amount of money invested in recruitment campaigns and bursaries – £743m compared with £682m a year earlier.
But in a report, Prof Ebdon insisted top universities still had much further to go, calling on them to impose “further, faster change” to provide more equal access to degree courses.
The comments were made in an analysis of “access agreements” drawn up by universities in 2012/13 to ensure students from disadvantaged backgrounds were not deterred by rising fees.
But it will raise concerns that universities will be forced to increasingly prioritise equality over academic excellence in coming years to satisfy government demands…
The OFFA report found that a total of 83 per cent of high-level targets by universities had been hit in 2012/13, but it insisted it was “still too early to tell if this is indicative of a sustained improvement”.
Separate figures show the most advantaged fifth of school leavers are more than six times as likely to get into a top university as the poorest 40 per cent of teenagers, OFFA said.
The report added: “More recent data from UCAS indicates an improvement since 2012/13 in the number of disadvantaged students being accepted to higher tariff institutions, which may indicate a more positive picture for participation at the most highly selective institutions.
“It is still too early to tell if this is indicative of a sustained improvement, but with significantly more investment in access agreements, OFFA would expect to see further improvement in 2013/14 and beyond.”…
Your thoughts on Professor Ebdon’s comments on the need for more socially balanced intakes? Is he right and how can it best be achieved? Are you noticing any difference for university applicants from your school? Please let us know in the comments or via Twitter…