Talking points: Getting poorer students to university

Throughout this week, I shall be raising, in a series of brief posts, some issues that I regard as being of current significance, inside and outside higher education.

One of the failures of almost every higher education system over recent years has been the inability to increase significantly the number of students from what one might describe as poor backgrounds entering university. Removing tuition fees has, where it has been applied, provided effective support to middle income groups, but has done little for the more seriously disadvantaged. Until recently it had been thought that, perhaps surprisingly, the English system (with loans-based tuition) had been most effective, but a recent analysis by the Vice-Chancellor of the Open University has called that into question, in particular because of the system’s apparent negative impact on part-time students.

There seems to me to be little doubt that the key driver of success is targeted support for the disadvantaged, with public money focused on this particular objective. Very few countries have shown themselves to be good at this.

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3 Comments on “Talking points: Getting poorer students to university”


  1. The linked report cannot be described as an analysis of the overall question.
    It relies on a few numbers.
    It is limited to England (and Wales?)

  2. Vincent Says:

    I’m not sure he’s got his categories correct. Why assume OU students are in the same economic space as poorer students in the main university. Nor has the OU ever been what anyone would call inexpensive to the student and only now when held beside the mainstream fees does it superficially look good. But if a poorer student couldn’t avail of the main university with the fees and maintenance loans they aren’t going to find 16k for an OU degree now are they.


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