These are the universities failing to recruit enough working class students
Almost every Russell Group uni is missing its targets
Almost every Russell Group uni is failing to recruit enough students from disadvantaged areas, with a charity warning that thousands of bright young people are missing out as a result.
At some top universities, the percentage of students from the poorest areas even managed to fall from 2017-18 to 2018-19.
Of the Russell Group, only Sheffield and Leeds managed to outperform benchmarks set for them by HESA, who set out the levels of students from low-participation neighbourhoods unis should aim to recruit.
“The reality is that each year of slow progress is one where thousands of people with the ability to excel in higher education are missing out,” said Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation
New data from HESA shows the percentage of students from POLAR4 neighbourhoods – the areas least likely to send students to university.
London universities, joined by Warwick and Birmingham all missed the mark by the furthest distance. By contrast, Leeds and Sheffield managed to recruit more disadvantaged students than their targets required.
Check out the table below. Any university with a negative “shortfall to benchmark” value is recruiting fewer working class students than its target.
10 universities in the Russell Group even grew further away from their targets, rather than closer, as experts showed alarm at slow progress. “Despite significant efforts and investment over many years this data shows only a modest improvement,” said Millward.
Beyond merely missing targets, some universities are actually getting posher. At Warwick, the percentage of disadvantaged students fell from 6.3 per cent to 4.9 per cent, whilst at Cardiff this number slumped from 10.1 per cent to 9.1 per cent.
For some reason, the issue of getting more disadvantaged students into university is a controversial one. Last month, as the Office for Students unveiled plans to halve the access gap at top universities, private schools complained rich students could be discriminated against in the process.
Responding to the new HESA statistics, Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students, said: “Despite significant efforts and investment over many years this data shows only a modest improvement in the rates of disadvantaged students entering higher education in 2018-19. On the other hand, the latest UCAS data, for students who began their courses last autumn, suggests a welcome upturn in progress.
“The reality is that each year of slow progress is one where thousands of people with the ability to excel in higher education are missing out. That is why it is so important that all universities and colleges registered with the Office for Students have set out the work they will do over the next five years to cut deep-seated gaps in higher education access and outcomes between the most and least advantaged students.
James Turner, CEO of the Sutton Trust, said: “Highly selective universities have made important steps forward in widening access in recent years, but this data highlights for many institutions there is much more to be done. We believe that universities should make greater and more ambitious use of contextual offers as an important way to improve access, recognising that the playing field at age 18 is far from level and potential isn’t always captured in grades.
“The regional divides we see in this data are also concerning. Young people from all backgrounds, across all areas of the country, should have equal opportunity to access higher education and fulfil their potential.