Russell Group universities have been urged by the Office for Fair Access to diversify by dramatically increasing the number of students they admit from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to The Huffington Post. Matt Field reports that elite universities should ‘increase admissions of the UK’s poorest students from 3.2% to 5% and increase the number of poor school leavers entering higher education from 20% in 2011 to 36% in 2019/20’ in order to reduce the participation gap.
The Russell Group have responded by claiming that they have little control over the circumstances of disadvantaged students before they apply to university, such as the guidance they get and the grades they achieve.
But shouldn’t everyone have equal rights to higher education? If top universities are concerned that disadvantaged students often won’t even make it to their doors due to circumstances at home, could they not develop a programme together to go into schools, to educate those who may think they don’t stand a chance?
It seems to me that The Russell Group is excusing itself out of what is absolutely an urgent concern. The key word, appropriately, is education; disadvantaged young people must know they have a right to attend any university, however elite, should they show potential.
The Russell Group should heed this appeal and inspire poorer students to aim high.