Azara Blog: Universities allegedly must do more for poor students

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Date published: 2006/11/30

The BBC says:

Universities must do more to admit students from deprived backgrounds, higher education minister Bill Rammell has said.

In 2005/06, £386m was spent on widening participation, improving retention rates and helping disabled students.

While universities say progress has been made, government figures show an upward trend in poorer student numbers has levelled off since 2002.

Mr Rammell now wants all outreach activities to target deprived groups.

Speaking at a conference in London, Mr Rammell called on universities to help overcome the real and perceived barriers poorer youngsters faced in getting to and succeeding in higher education.

"We need to think about how to close social class gaps at every stage of the education system," he said.

He was responding to a report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce), based on questionnaires completed by universities.

It found 89% of the institutions surveyed said progress in widening participation over the past four years had been strong.

But it said while there was "overwhelming" evidence that wider participation programmes were raising aspirations, there was "weak" evidence of raised attainment and access.

It did acknowledge that some questionnaire answers may have been understated or overstated, and therefore a more rigorous measurement of progress was needed.

All a bit ridiculous the amount of time and effort this pathetic hectoring of universities takes up. So the HEFCE asks universities "are you really nice chaps to poor people" and get the response "yes", what a surprise. But this is not the real issue. The real issue, as Rammell himself at least had the grace to point out, is the under-18 education system. By the time you are 18 it is far too late to close the gap. It is not up to universities to be baby-sitters for people who have not been properly educated in the first place, no matter how much the political elite would want to see it otherwise, for reasons of political correctness.

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