Government efforts to improve educational mobility have resulted in a record high gap between University offers more students from disadvantaged backgrounds and students from wealthier backgrounds.
Concerns were prompted over lack of educational mobility for disadvantage students after it was revealed that students on free school meals were half as likely to get into University as their wealthier peers. The gap between University applicant offers for rich and poor students is now at 16.7 UCAS points, reflecting an attempt to encourage more students from all backgrounds to attend University.
Overall, more young people from all social groups have been attending University over the last couple of years. However, despite this growth in the number of poorer students achieving University places halted this year, despite the fact that more University places were offered than ever before in 2016. According to an article published by the Independent, this can principally be attributed to the government’s decision to cut maintenance loans for students, deterring many students from lower income families from applying to University.
Former Business Secretary Sir Vince Cable, criticised Theresa May’s approach to educational mobility, claiming that her actions did not reflect her supposed intentions. He argued that students should have access to more financial support, whether this be in the form of a loan or grant:
“we had a very active policy working through organisations to getting universities back to promoting social mobility and I suspect this is now being pursued less aggressively.”
In addition to this gap, female teenagers are also 35% more likely to attend University than male teenagers.
Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, claimed she was bitterly disappointed by these figures and demanded the government re-examine educational policy, stating that she does not believe creating more grammer schools was the answer:
“The ladder is being pulled up in the face of bright, talented, working-class kids who have the intellect and the ambition but lack the means to enter university.”
However Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson reasserted that social mobility was at the top of the government’s agenda and argued that the record number of University places achieved this year was still “welcome news”:
“people from disadvantaged backgrounds are now more than a third more likely to enter higher education than in 2010. However, we know there is more to be done if we are to truly make this a country that works for everyone.”