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Universities: Admissions

Question for Department for Education

UIN 108882, tabled on 20 October 2017

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what discussions she has had with the Office for Students on the benefits of universities engaging with schools and students under the age of 16 to improve social mobility.

Answered on

25 October 2017

In our consultation, published last week, on the framework that will inform the Office for Student’s (OfS) regulatory approach, we set out the opportunity the transition provides, to engender a step change in social mobility. The creation of the OfS creates an opportunity to strengthen ties between schools, colleges and universities, to support students to access, participate, succeed in, and progress from, higher education.

The Government believes the UK’s world class higher education sector has a depth of expertise and resource to draw on – in governance, teaching and finance – which could help our state schools to improve, therefore helping to drive social mobility.

In February this year the Director of Fair Access strengthened guidance on access agreements, by asking the sector to increase the pace and scope of its work with schools, to raise attainment for those from disadvantaged and under-represented groups. The Government endorses this guidance and expects a continuation in this direction of travel, through the transition to the OfS. The Government expects more higher education institutions to come forward to be involved in school sponsorship and in establishing new state schools, to help raise attainment and support school improvement.

In addition to the important role higher education institutions can play in raising attainment and supporting school improvement, the Government also recognises the role they can play in raising the aspirations of young people, to support social mobility. In line with the latest guidance to the Director of Fair Access (February 2016), the Government expects higher education institutions to continue to build long term relationships with schools, through their outreach programmes, to help raise aspirations starting at primary school years.

Through their 2018/19 access agreements universities and colleges expect to spend £196.9 million on access activities, including outreach (part of the total £860 million expected access agreement spend), an increase of £25.8 million or 15.1 per cent compared with 2017-18 (£171.1 million).

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