Change demanded after reports show that white disadvantaged students are the least likely group to enrol at university
Education secretary Damian Hinds has called for action to tackle the lack of white disadvantaged British boys entering university, after research conducted by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that they are the least likely of any ethnic group to pursue a university degree.
While the overall figures for students attending university in the UK has risen, fewer white people are being accepted. Since 2013, the number of white students has decreased by over 34,000, whilst the intake of black and Asian students has gone up by 11% and 12% respectively, with an 18% increase for those from mixed or other ethnicities. In light of these figures, experts have called for more of a public debate around “culture and ambition in white working-class families”.
Hinds has also launched Operation North East, injecting £24m into the area with the aim of helping those from disadvantaged communities and identifying the problems that stop them reaching their full potential. Announcing the scheme at a school in Gateshead, Hinds called upon universities to challenge themselves to “do things like increasing access to university for young people from black and minority ethnic communities”, whilst also reinforcing that disadvantage is “not limited to a single group.”
This comes after a BBC report earlier in the year stating that the secondary school league tables are unfairly skewed against communities with higher levels of white deprivation in comparison to other ethnic minorities. These tables rank students and schools based on progress made rather than academic success – meaning those with more disadvantaged pupils make less progress and receive negative scores. In a report for the National Education Union, Dr Terry Wrigley has suggested that the gap in achievement only widens throughout school, as students become increasingly disengaged and less likely to apply for university.
UCL offers an Access and Widening Participation initiative designed to improve the intake of students from state schools, as well as those from neighbourhoods and families with a low overall university attendance rate. However, according to statistics provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, only 3.3% of full-time UK undergraduates entering UCL in 2016/17 came from neighbourhoods with lower participation in higher education – considerably less than the national average of 12.1%.