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Universities making lower offers to poorest students, study finds

Government officials have identified 17 universities which are using controversial admissions practices to lower the A-level grades required of state school applicants from the poorest homes.

The institutions - including some of the most competitive, such as Newcastle and Birmingham universities Birmingham University, at Birmingham, England; founded 1900. It has faculties of arts, science, engineering, medicine and dentistry, commerce and social science, law, and education and continuing studies.  - select promising pupils from local state secondaries and tailor offers of places to give them a chance against applicants from high-flying schools.

The finding, in research by the Higher Education Funding Council for England The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is a non-departmental public body of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (previously the Department for Education and Skills) in the United Kingdom which distributes funding to Universities and  (Hefce) seen by the Guardian, suggests students who come through these schemes often outperform Outperform

An analyst recommendation meaning a stock is expected to do slightly better than the market return.

Notes:
Exact definitions vary by brokerage, but in general this rating is better than neutral and worse than buy or strong buy.
 others who have been intensively coached during their A-levels.

It will prove controversial with some universities and some private schools, which have argued that such schemes could discriminate against their pupils.

This week, the prime minister will publish a report from the National Council for Educational Excellence which will argue that more universities should take "contextual" information about pupils' backgrounds into account.

Tomorrow, the chancellor of Oxford University, Lord Patten Lord Patten may refer to:
  • Chris Patten, Baron Patten of Barnes, conservative UK politician, former Governor of Hong Kong, and former European Commissioner
  • John Patten, Baron Patten, conservative UK politician, former Secretary of State for Education
, is expected to reopen a row with the government, accusing ministers of pressuring universities to "make up for the deficiencies of secondary schools" in their admission procedures.

Today's research maps the extent of "compact" schemes, where universities work with schools and colleges to identify potential students. Nearly half of universities - 51 in total - have some form of compact scheme in place. A third of these extend to making lower offers to students who show potential despite a relatively poor education.

The report says: "The benefits of compacts to learners are significant. They provide additional support for learners prior to entry ... There is little available data, but it appears that learners, on the whole, perform as well or better than other students."

It also finds that many universities fail to discriminate properly in their targeting of students, which will prompt fears that in some areas middle-class children who would have gone to university anyway could be benefiting from the schemes.

Writing in today's Education Guardian, Kevin Whitston, Hefce's head of widening participation The goal of widening participation in higher education is a major component of government education policy in the United Kingdom; see role of the new Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. , said students from the poorest homes were still underrepresented un·der·rep·re·sent·ed  
adj.
Insufficiently or inadequately represented: the underrepresented minority groups, ignored by the government. 
 in the most selective universities.

"Taking account of the learner's context can lead to heated debate, but it does not need to if we ask the right questions about evidence," he said.

Bill Rammell William Ernest "Bill" Rammell (born 10 October 1959, Islington) is a politician in the United Kingdom. He has been Labour member of Parliament for Harlow since 1997 and is a Minister of State in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. , the higher education higher education

Study beyond the level of secondary education. Institutions of higher education include not only colleges and universities but also professional schools in such fields as law, theology, medicine, business, music, and art.
 minister, said: "Compact schemes provide a useful tool for engaging young people in higher education at a young age, providing access to university activities and improving the links between universities and schools. I strongly welcome this report and support its recommendation for clear, accessible information on their availability, which sits firmly alongside the government's call for greater transparency in the overall admissions process."

Access schemes

• The University of Birmingham Due to Birmingham's role as a centre of light engineering, the university traditionally had a special focus on science, engineering and commerce, as well as coal mining. It now teaches a full range of academic subjects and has five-star rating for teaching and research in several 's Access to Birmingham scheme is open to pupils who are the first in their family to go to university

• Kingston makes offers up to two grades lower to students from low-income homes

• Newcastle University invites pupils on to a two-week course. If they pass they are given a lower offer

• Cambridge uses a limited points system for pupils from schools at the bottom of the GCSE GCSE
1. (in Britain) General Certificate of Secondary Education; an examination in specified subjects which replaced the GCE O level and CSE

2. Informal a pass in a GCSE examination

Noun 1.
 league tables
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Author:guardian.co.uk
Publication:guardian.co.uk
Date:Sep 30, 2008
Words:522
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