University attracts ‘working class’ students

The Sutton Trust has released a paper suggesting that top universities in the United Kingdom are failing to attract students from working-class backgrounds, despite them attaining the grades for some of the country’s most elite educational establishments. This includes universities within the Russell Group, which York joined in 2012.

The report written by John Jerrim of the Institute for Education in London pointed to a link between the social class of a child and their likelihood of attending one of the country’s top universities. It noted that 27 per cent of the differences in admissions between social classes are not due to academic achievements. This statistic shows the possibility of social disadvantage being transmitted across generations, with great difficulty in breaking this cycle without outside intervention.

The report also looked at establishments in other countries, such as the United States. This revealed that UK universities are seriously behind in the levels of financial aid which they provide to their students in comparison to their US counterparts.
While a student at Harvard has fees over three times that of the UK’s current £9000, families from poorer backgrounds are expected to pay a fraction of the tuition fees they would here. In the report Jerrim stated that “the ‘sticker price’ of elite private US colleges like Harvard is high compared to their UK counterparts in the UK, such as Oxford. However, the generous aid packages mean that the actual price young people from low-income backgrounds pay to attend elite private colleges in the United States is significantly lower.”

Statistics obtained from the University of York show that the current student body is made up of 77.3 per cent state school or college educated students. Also 18.6 per cent of students come from a background category graded between 4-7 on the National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification scale. This means that students within this group are from lower income jobs or semi routine jobs.

This would put the University in a better position than the average presented by the Sutton Trust’s report. The University told Nouse: “We attach great importance to social inclusion and it is one of the major objectives of the University Plan.

“We have increased staffing significantly in the widening participation team in the last two years and we work locally, regionally and nationally on outreach programmes to disadvantaged groups.

“Our Access Agreements are published online, and section seven of these agreements relates to targets, milestones and outlines our view on NS-SEC and low participation neighbourhood proportions.”

One comment

  1. I think it’s due to the ridiculous way student finance is distributed. Only those at the lower extreme of the income scale are given enough maintenance loan/grant to live off, thus discouraging the majority who are somewhere in between poor and very wealthy. Yes, parents may be able to afford to provide finance, but many choose not do this, leaving school leavers with no option but to seek alternative paths to university.

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