A piece in today’s Times:
Middle-class children will be squeezed out of Oxbridge as the universities strive to meet ambitious targets to recruit poorer youngsters, the student watchdog says.
However, Oxford and Cambridge have refused to expand their total undergraduate numbers, meaning that fewer better-off bright pupils will be offered places.
Private school heads, who previously supported the access targets agreed between the watchdog and universities, have now warned that they disadvantage their pupils.
Chris Millward, OfS director of access, said he was aware that Oxbridge did not want to increase student numbers and that this would hit middle-class applicants. “If they don’t grow, then the groups that are very highly represented in those universities will be less represented at the end of this,” he said.
Children from the most advantaged areas are more than six times as likely to attend a top university as pupils from the poorest areas. The watchdog wants to almost halve this gap by 2025.
Oxford has 15 students from the wealthiest neighbourhoods for every one from the most disadvantaged areas. It has a target of 8:1 by 2024-25. Cambridge’s ratio is 14:1, with a target of 7:1.
Mike Buchanan, of the HMC groups of private schools, said: “Care is needed in starting actively to discriminate against individual young people on the basis of the class they were born into. The country needs all its young people to reach their potential.”
However, James Turner, of the Sutton Trust charity, praised the efforts to close the gap and urged elite universities to close geographical divides. The report shows that in London 54 per cent of young people go to university while in the southwest it is 37 per cent. “It is great to see universities setting out ambitious plans,” he said.
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