The Office for Fair Access has argued that many universities
are failing in their bid to recruit students from poor families, despite a cash
injection of millions of pounds designed to increase access.
The warning from the official regulator comes as claims were
made that the number of students from low income backgrounds admitted to
university stalled in 2011.
The regulator has argued the attempt to recruit more
applicants from poor families has been too “slow” and that universities and
other institutions should set more rigorous targets in the upcoming academic
Figures show that the number of students from disadvantaged
backgrounds, with some form of financial aid, who gained places at 33 leading
universities dipped last year.
However, the number of students who claimed a full bursary
in the 2011/12 academic year increased. This may mean that the largest share of
funds was directed to the poorest students as opposed to being more evenly distributed
amongst other lower income groups such as those from lower middle-class
Wendy Piatt, director-general, of The Russell Group, which
represents 24 leading universities in England, said:
“Universities themselves do not have the power to solve the
root causes of the under-representation of students from disadvantaged
backgrounds: under-achievement at school and poor advice on the best choices of
A-level subjects and university degree course.
“So it is hard for
universities to make rapid progress on achieving demanding and really quite
specific targets which relate to much broader and complex socio-economic
The amount of financial assistance earmarked for deprived
students across the English higher education system has increased from £403.7m
in 2009/10 to £424.2m last year.
Outgoing director of OFFA, Sir Martin Harris, said higher
education institutions were “making good progress in attracting and retaining
under-represented students" but that more needed to be done.
How did you support
yourself through university? Did you have to take on jobs for students or summer jobs to
boost your finances?