Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Oxbridge Must Lose Brideshead Reputation, Says Clarke; REGULATOR WILL FINE UNIVERSITIES FOR RESTRICTING ACCESS

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Oxbridge Must Lose Brideshead Reputation, Says Clarke; REGULATOR WILL FINE UNIVERSITIES FOR RESTRICTING ACCESS

Article excerpt

Byline: TIM MILES

UNIVERSITIES such as Oxford and Cambridge need to drop their Brideshead Revisited image to attract the brightest students from inner-city schools, Education Secretary Charles Clarke said today.

He challenged top universities to do more to attract working class students, claiming that despite efforts to change their image, they still appeared out of date.

"Oxford and Cambridge should be looking to create a modern image of themselves to get applications from the best and brightest, irrespective of their social class," said Mr Clarke.

He was speaking as he published details of the new regulator - the Office of Fair Admissions (Offa) - which will have the power to fine universities or deny them the right to charge higher fees if they do not do enough to widen access.

Mr Clarke said: " The Brideshead Revisited image which Oxford sometimes transmits is not appropriate for that modern image.

"Most people at Oxford and Cambridge believe it is outdated, but whether that is fully being conveyed to students and potential applicants is a matter for debate."

Details of the role of Offa published today confirm that the new regulator will require universities to sign five-year agreements on how they intend to boost applications from lower socioeconomic-groups. They will be required to set their own " milestones" for improving access and show how they will use higher fees to offer more generous bursaries to poorer students.

Universities will also have to show how they are encouraging state school students to apply by staging summer schools and outreach activities to state schools.

Failure to reach agreements or a breach of its terms would allow Offa to fine universities or deny them the right to charge higher fees, Mr Clarke said.

But he stressed that the regulator's remit would not run to commenting on individual admission procedures, like the preference given by universities such as Bristol to students with " potential" from inner-city schools.

"The Government has no role in interfering with university admissions. They are quite rightly the business of universities themselves," Mr Clarke said. …

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