Magazine article Public Finance

Initiatives to Widen Access to Top Universities Are Failing

Magazine article Public Finance

Initiatives to Widen Access to Top Universities Are Failing

Article excerpt

Young people from poor backgrounds are still failing to get places at top universities despite millions of pounds spent on efforts to widen participation, according to a report published on May 19.

The Office for Fair Access found that while many more people from disadvantaged backgrounds have been in higher education as a whole since the mid-1990s, there had been no increase in the proportion attending the top third of universities.

The most advantaged 20% of young people are now around seven times more likely than the most disadvantaged 40% to attend selective institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge.

Report author and director of fair access Sir Martin Harris said it was 'both socially unacceptable and economically wasteful' that so few people from poor backgrounds went to the best universities.

But he said the situation would be much worse if universities had not been making attempts to address the problem.

He called on the top institutions to re-examine their outreach activities, for which they are given additional government funding, to ensure they were targeted at the most able and disadvantaged students.

The new universities minister, Conservative David Willetts, said the report was Very valuable' and that the government was committed to improving wider participation. …

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