Universities called on to help poor students gain a place at Oxbridge

Top universities such as Oxbridge must reduce entry grade requirements for poor students to help more of them gain a place, says education regulator

  • The Office for Students wants drastic changes to be made to admission criteria
  • Experts recommend accepting grades as low as BCC instead of the standard A* 
  • Youngsters from rich areas are six times more likely to get into a top university

Universities must be more ‘ambitious’ in lowering entry grades for poorer students, a watchdog report has warned.

The Office for Students (OfS), which regulates universities, said drastic changes must be made to admissions criteria when it comes to those from deprived areas. 

One academic believes Russell Group universities, which include prestigious Oxford and Cambridge, should be pushing entry grades as low as BCC for poor students, when normally they would ask for A* grades.

An expert believes Russell Group universities, including the University of Oxford, should be reducing entry grade requirements for poor students to as low as BCC

Already, many universities let in disadvantaged students with one or two grades less, but the OfS said many institutions are not lowering requirements enough.

New research shows youngsters from rich neighbourhoods are six times more likely to get into a top university than those from poor areas. 

The OfS said part of the reason is that those in deprived areas have had more disadvantages, and this should be recognised when their potential is being assessed.

Today’s OfS report comes as it holds its conference. 

Chairman Sir Michael Barber will say: ‘

‘A young person from a council estate who gets decent A levels has often had to work a lot harder than the young person from a better off neighbourhood who gets a few grades more.

‘That’s why it is right that contextual admissions are now an increasing part of the picture.

‘We are wasting talent, denying opportunity and hurting our economy by not making the most of our greatest asset: our people.’

Education secretary Damian Hinds said: ‘A university education should be available to everyone who has the talent to benefit from it and we have made great progress in ensuring universities are open to all, with record rates of disadvantaged 18-year-olds in higher education.

‘But there is more to do and we know that contextual offers can play an important part in levelling the playing field so those from disadvantaged backgrounds can flourish in higher education.

‘I want institutions to consider a broad range of information in their offers, including the context in which a student’s results were achieved.’

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