18 October 2012
Responding to the publication of the 'University Challenge' progress report on higher education and social mobility , Nick Davy, AoC Higher Education Policy Manager, said:
“Given that colleges teach two thirds of young people at sixth form age we are of course very interested in a resurgent discussion on improving financial help for these students – however there is likely to be a debate about whether channelling that funding through university grants is as equitable or effective as alternative systems. Colleges would echo Mr Milburn’s reported comments on the loss of the EMA....like universities our members regarded it as an initiative that encouraged progression, attainment and good study habits because of the way it was awarded.”
“We welcome much contained within the ‘University Challenge’ progress report, in particular the proposition that universities standardise the way they use contextual admission data in order to better judge a student’s potential alongside their grades, and to take into account their individual circumstances. We strongly support the call for the end of student number control and the expansion of cost effective higher education, the emphasis in the report on improving and evaluating careers guidance in schools and the focus on communicating with mature and part-time students about higher education fees and finance.
“As with many discussions related to social mobility and education, we must guard against too great an emphasis being placed on the pursuit of studies in traditional professions like medicine and law at prestigious universities. This may be to the detriment of the key professions now in demand, such as logistics, accountancy, digital applications and retail management, which may prove key to widening participation.
“Our member colleges have a strong track record of working to widen participation and of supporting young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, or areas of deprivation, progress to higher education. Some sixth form colleges and general further education colleges offer extra-curricula activities to help raise student aspirations and help prepare them for the university application process; others have forged direct links with universities in order to help break down perceived and real barriers to widening participation.
“Colleges provide 33% of entrants to HE and nearly two thirds of our members deliver HE in a FE setting with half of all Foundation Degree students taught in a college. Nearly a quarter (22.9%) of young, full-time first degree entrants registered at colleges were from neighbourhoods with low rates of participation in higher education. This is more than double the rate (10.5%) for all such entrants at English universities despite the intense pressure placed on universities to improve performance against their benchmarks. For example, in the eight years from (02/03 to 10/11, Oxford University has seen no change in recruitment from state schools, a 1% increase in students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and 3.2% increase in recruitment from deprived areas*.”
* HESA WP statistics; 2002/03 and 2010/11