Too Few University Students Come from Deprived Areas; NEWFIGURES SUGGESTTHAT POLICYHAS STALLED

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), January 18, 2011 | Go to article overview

Too Few University Students Come from Deprived Areas; NEWFIGURES SUGGESTTHAT POLICYHAS STALLED


Byline: MARTIN SHIPTON

AROWbroke out last night over the effectiveness of the Assembly Government's policy to get more students from poorer backgrounds going to university.

Education Minister Leighton Andrews has said his strategy of not raising student tuition fees is motivated by making it easier for school-leavers from poor and middle-class backgrounds to enter higher education.

But official figures released to the Western Mail suggest that progress may have stalled on the bid to increase the proportion of students from the 100 most impoverished Communities First areas in Wales.

In 2005/06, 8.9% of "young" university students in Wales were from Communities First areas. The proportion rose to 10.2% in 2006/07, went down to 9.4% in 2007/08, and was up to 10.2% again in 2008/09.

For mature students, the proportion of students from Communities First areas was 12.5% in 2006/07 and 2007/08, but went down to 12% in 2008/08.

Conservative Shadow Education Minister Paul Davies said: "However Ministers try to spin these figures, they clearly show Labour-Plaid's higher education policy is failing to attract bright students from deprived areas.

"Ministers have recently unveiled a blank cheque to subsidise students going to English and Welsh universities, potentially to the detriment of Welsh higher education institutions (HEIs) and with no measures to encourage those from more deprived areas.

"Instead of throwing money at the problem, some of which will go to English universities rather than Welsh HEIs, ministers should tackle the deep-rooted social problems which maintain cycles of deprivation."

An Assembly Government spokesman said: "In (the) One Wales (coalition agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru) we made a clear commitment to widen participation in further and higher education.

"We have put in place what we believe is the most equitable student finance system to support students and one of the key aims of our higher education policy For Our Future is to make higher education more accessible.

"A key part of that strategy is the establishment of the University of the Heads of the Valleys (UHOVI) and the action being taken forward by the Higher Education Funding Council (Hefcw) to develop more accessible provision and progression opportunities through improved regional planning. UHOVI will develop and deliver an exciting range of higher-level educational programmes, building on the strength of provision which already exists in the region, but most importantly it will make higher education more accessible for those who want to learn. …

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