Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

University Targets Set to Be Revised

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

University Targets Set to Be Revised

Article excerpt

Byline: By Graeme Whitfield

Targets for universities to admit more state school pupils could be revised after research showed the country's top institutions were losing their elitist status.

Higher Education Minister Kim Howells will today (TUES) praise Durham University for increasing its intake of state school pupils, and is considering reform of the benchmarks that prompted a row a number of top universities.

Newcastle University chancellor Chris Patten told the Government that universities should not be told who to admit, despite the threat that the university could miss out on the proceeds of increased tuition fees if it does not widen access.

Now a report from the educational charity the Sutton Trust has shown that the top universities are increasing numbers of state school pupils they accept, leading Ministers to say they are considering scrapping the controversial targets.

The report said the benchmarks were skewed by the inclusion of qualifications like GNVQs that were rarely included in the offers made by universities like Durham.

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said yesterday that the idea of reforming the system was something "which needs to be looked into".

The report also shows that the proportion of students at Durham who have been to state school has risen from 62pc in 1997 to 68pc in 2002.

Higher Education Minister Kim Howells yesterday welcomed Durham's progress in admitting state school pupils.

"It is a shame that this year's benchmarks caused such a storm and took the shine off the progress being made by our leading universities.

"This Sutton Trust research shows that Durham University has successfully engaged in outreach activities and increased their proportion of state school entrants. This Government is dedicated to working with universities to open up access even further. …

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