UK universities must recruit more white working class students or face the punishment, education secretary warns
- Damian Hinds asks why people from some places have less chance of a degree
- He called on vice chancellors to do more for people from disadvantaged groups
- Figures show that disadvantaged white pupils are least likely to go to university
Education Secretary Damian Hinds says there is no reason children from poor towns can’t go to university
Universities must recruit more white working-class students or face sanctions, the Education Secretary warned yesterday.
Damian Hinds said vice chancellors were not doing enough to admit disadvantaged groups – often those in poor white regional towns.
He said there was no reason why children in places such as Sunderland or Somerset should have less of a chance of gaining a degree.
Official figures show that disadvantaged white pupils are the least likely group to attend university, particularly at leading institutions.
Mr Hinds said: ‘Whilst potential and talent is evenly spread, the opportunities to make the most of it sometimes aren’t. It’s simply unacceptable for universities not to act to increase their efforts to reach out to potential talent across the country.
‘I have a simple message to universities: look at your own admissions policies and work out what you can do to ensure that your university is open to everyone who has the potential, no matter their background or where they are from.
‘I see no reason why race or background should be a factor in whether a student can access and benefit from the opportunities that higher education provides.
‘We must all share a collective endeavour to tear down these barriers where they exist.’
He said he wanted to see material progress in closing the access gap in the next few years, with failure leading to action by the Office for Students. The regulator can impose sanctions such as fines or, as a last resort, deregistration, which would effectively mean closure.
Mr Hinds also wants to see universities doing more to support black students during their studies, as they are more likely to drop out after their first year than any other group.
University vice chancellor with £433,000 salary spends 30 days a year doing OTHER paid jobs
He called on vice chancellors to do more. Alice Gast (above) is the vice chancellor at Imperial College London
A vice chancellor with a salary of almost half a million pounds spends up to 30 days a year doing other jobs.
Professor Alice Gast is paid £433,000 as vice chancellor of Imperial College in London, making her one of the highest-earning university chiefs. She also has use of an official residence, with an estimated market rent of £120,000 a year.
She earns a second income as a director of the energy multinational Chevron. New annual accounts reveal she earned £297,000 for this role in the year ending December 2017 and £7,900 for her work with the Singapore Ministry of Education’s academic research council.
The details were released yesterday by Imperial in an attempt at transparency. Professor Gast said she spent around 30 days a year on external work.
‘These roles strengthen our relationships and broaden my perspective on international collaboration and best practice in corporate governance,’ she said. ‘I am proud of the way our external activities enhance Imperial’s international reputation.’
His comments come as the OfS publishes plans to crack down on universities that admit a disproportionate number of wealthy students.
It aims to eliminate the gaps in access and student success at all universities within 20 years.
As part of a raft of measures, the OfS will begin to publish data showing the makeup of student bodies at each university. It means those who admit too few disadvantaged students will be named and shamed.
In addition, it will assess universities on whether their plans to improve access are credible and ‘achieve outcomes’.
The OfS also hopes to eliminate the gap in entry rates at the most selective universities between advantaged and disadvantaged students.
Another target is to close the gap between black and white students getting top marks, and a similar gap between disabled and non-disabled students.
Mr Hinds added: ‘We know university is a key determinant of future success so I want to see the access and successful participation plans that universities are beginning to produce next year take significant action. Access and participation plans should emphasise successful participation that is completion of the full course, followed by quality employment.’
Sarah Stevens, head of policy at the Russell Group of elite universities, said: ‘Our universities will continue to play our part in delivering this agenda.
‘Our universities currently spend an average £1,100 per student per year on programmes to widen participation.
‘In order to achieve these new targets, universities’ efforts need to be part of a wider programme to address the complex causes of inequality throughout the whole education system right from the early years.’
Meanwhile, figures from admissions body UCAS show that four in five students who applied for university with only three D grades managed to get a place this year.
A total of 4,845 youngsters with these low exam results started courses in higher education this autumn – 81 per cent of the 5,981 who applied.
The number of students with DDD accepted on to courses has increased by 29 per cent since 2013, when only 3,763 got places.
A glut of places has been produced by a dip in the population of 18-year-olds an