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.