Universities and Specialist Colleges Opening Doors for the Underprivileged


University and specialist colleges and some of the UK’s newest universities are among the best higher education institutions in Britain for attracting students from underprivileged and under-represented backgrounds, new figures show.

Most are beating Government benchmarks for enrolling disabled students and applicants from state schools, lower socio-economic groups, and people living in neighbourhoods where a relatively low proportion of people enter higher education.

The performance indicators published today by the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that on average 9.1 per cent of full-time undergraduates at institutions represented by GuildHE are in receipt of a disabled student allowance – more than twice the UK average for the sector.

GuildHE institutions also educate a higher proportion of students from lower socio-economic groups than most universities – on average 37.6 per cent of their students come from these backgrounds compared with the sector-wide average of 30.1 per cent. An average of 11.3 per cent of students at GuildHE institutions are from low participation neighbourhoods, compared with 10.3 per cent for institutions across the UK; and 93.6 per cent come from state schools, against a national average of 88.5 per cent.

Alice Hynes, GuildHE’s Chief Executive, said the data demonstrates the effectiveness of close collaboration with local schools and other outreach work in local communities to raise the aspirations of state school pupils and people from disadvantaged backgrounds who are generally under-represented in higher education.

She said: “It is good to see that nationally some progress is being made in reaching out to and attracting people who might otherwise not have considered entering higher education, although it is disappointing that once again the national figures show that most universities still need to work harder to attract those from lower socio-economic groups.

“Fortunately, there are institutions such as those represented by GuildHE that are pioneering new approaches to widening participation and are making good progress as a result. It is to be hoped that the Government will take note of this work and ensure it continues to be supported despite the significant pressures on the education budget.”

Pam Taylor, Principal of Newman University College where 23.7 per cent of students are from low participation neighbourhoods, said: “It is central to Newman University College’s mission to create opportunity for all those that can benefit from it. For students from low participation groups the challenge is to help them see that they do have the talent and ability to achieve in higher education. It is really important to provide them with good role models in students from similar backgrounds."


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