The BBC is reporting that Business Secretary Vince cable has said universities in England should switch cash from bursaries towards building links with schools to boost the number of students from poor homes…
His call was echoed by the head of the admissions watchdog the Office for Fair Access (Offa) Les Ebdon.
Both told a conference that “outreach” did more to boost applications from poorer students than offering money.
But a university admissions chief said students wanted more bursaries.
In order to be able to charge tuition fees of more than £6,000 a year, universities in England have to satisfy Offa that they are working to increase applications and university entry from people from low-income backgrounds and other disadvantaged groups.
Prof Ebdon said: “There is a need for smarter spending based on evaluation of what works and what works are outreach programmes.
“Most of the money universities are spending goes on bursaries and most of the evidence is that money would be better spent on outreach programmes.”
Some talented people felt university was “not for them”, Prof Ebdon told the conference, which was organised by the Sutton Trust educational charity.
“Outreach raises aspiration and it makes them feel university is for people like me.”
He said this work needed to “start early” – at primary school – before key decisions on exam subjects were taken.
Mr Cable told the meeting: “Evidence we have suggests the best way of encouraging social mobility is to do outreach.
“Getting pupils doing the right combination of GCSE and A-levels is much more effective than bursaries and fee-waivers; targeted outreach is what really works.”
…Cambridge University’s director of undergraduate recruitment Jon Beard told the meeting while Offa was telling the university to spend on outreach, students were telling it to spend on bursaries – and Offa wanted it to listen to its students…
Are Sir Les and Vince Cable right to encourage outreach rather than bursaries to boost the numbers of students from poorer homes? Please share any examples you are aware of where outreach has been successful in the comments or via twitter…