Today’s Education in the Media blog looks at the government’s efforts to improve social mobility and widen access to our world class universities.
Today, November 21, The Times published a piece on the disparity in the number of pupils from different regions of England going to study at Oxford and Cambridge universities.
The piece notes that a dozen private schools in either the Home Counties or London had more students attend the two universities than Birmingham and all major northern cities combined.
While it’s important for universities to improve diversity themselves, the Secretary of State has been clear that social mobility is her top priority and significant steps have already been made:
- Thanks in part to reforms in the school system, disadvantaged young people are entering our world-class universities at record rates – up by 43 per cent in 2016 compared with 2009.
- The Government’s new Opportunity Areas will work to drive social mobility in these communities, picked because they are social mobility cold spots, through a range of targeted activity and projects. This includes £22 million which will be shared among all 12 Opportunity Areas through a new Essential Life Skills programme to help disadvantaged young people develop.
- We have invested over £11bn since 2011 - almost £2.5bn this year alone through the pupil premium to tackle the impact of economic disadvantage on education and help schools support their most disadvantaged pupils.
- The Government also has made sure that any higher education institution wishing to charge more than £6,000 a year must have an access agreement, set by the Office for Fair Access, showing how they will promote social mobility and encourage students from disadvantaged backgrounds to apply.
- As well, universities will also from 2018 be required to have agreed access and participation plans for disadvantaged students – meaning they focus on retention and participation of students throughout their courses, rather than just access to universities.