Ministers set university targets - Middle class to lose out

Daily Mail said:
Now pupils might miss out on a place at university if their parents have good jobs
By LAURA CLARK - Last updated at 22:58pm on 24th June 2007

Middle-class pupils face missing out on degree course places under plans to boost recruitment of workingclass students to university.
Universities are to be set targets within two years for admitting students whose parental income falls below a given level - expected to be around £27,500.

They face losing out on funds and being 'named and shamed' as socially exclusive in national league tables if they fail to progress towards the goals.

[align=center]Independents leave state school trailing in exams results [/align]

But while income information will be held centrally for monitoring purposes, admissions tutors will be given details only of parents occupations and not their salary - raising the prospect of blanket discrimination against well-paid jobs.

The use of parental income data met with protests last night and was condemned as a dramatic extension of so-called 'social engineering' in university admissions.

Details of parents' salaries held by the Student Loans Company will be used to monitor the proportion of less wealthy students each university is accepting. Elite institutions are already judged against swingeing targets for admitting more students from state schools and deprived areas as part of a Government drive to shake up the middle-class domination of places.

While there are no direct financial penalties for missing the targets, universities qualify for extra cash - the controversial 'postcode premium' - for every student they accept from a disadvantaged area.
Ultimately, they face being stripped of the right to charge top-up tuition fees of £3,000 a year if they fail to do enough to widen the class mix of students.

Meanwhile national league tables are produced every year exposing the universities which are least successful at recruiting disadvantaged students.

Private school leaders have warned that any further increases in state or working-class pupils can be achieved only through crude 'social engineering' since failures in the school system mean many are not adequately prepared for university.

Critics warned the new parental income target being imposed by ministers raised the prospect of discrimination against deserving candidates from better-off backgrounds.

Admissions tutors cannot be told the precise salaries of applicants' parents due to data protection restrictions.

However the university admissions service, UCAS, recently revealed that staff will be told the occupation of the main breadwinner in an applicant's family from 2009, with the aim of allowing them to better assess students' backgrounds.

Critics warned this information would easily allow universities to estimate family earnings, raising the prospect of institutions selecting likely to help meet parental income targets.

Pat Langham, president of the Girls' Schools Association, said: 'What next - height and hair colour? I am totally in favour of widening access. I was a "non-traditional" student myself but I achieved a place at university on the basis of my results at A-level, an interview and a school reference.
'No one asked for or needed to know what my parents did, how much they earned or where we lived. I was accepted on merit.'

A further planned target will judge universities according to how many students they attract whose parents did not go to university. UCAS will elicit this information using a new question in application forms from next year.

The new targets - dubbed simply 'benchmarks' by the Government - were revealed in a recentlypublished report from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Mrs Langham, the head of feepaying Wakefield Girls' High School, warned the system threatened to throw up anomalies where millionaire property developers could describe themselves to admissions tutors as builders in the hope of improving their children's chances.

Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said: 'These new performance indicators will help to give us a wider and more sensitive picture of participation in higher education by non-traditional students which will inform our continuing work on improving access.'
Yet more Daily Heil piffle, I'm afraid.

I work in University admissions and the proportion of students from middle class backgrounds continues to dwarf all other catagories as it has for decades. That headline's blatant scaremongering of the worst order. Admissions officers don't get to see family backgrounds when making their decision, so they can't tell if the candidate has two parents in the professions or one single parent on benefits.

The idea that little Tarquil will be refused admission because Johnny Briggs is being given a leg up is unmitigated excrement. No University could ever get away with doing that because admissions are monitored so thoroughly through the central admissions system, UCAS. Any trends bucking the national norm would stand out, and no, the national norm can't be fiddled either because the different catchment areas are too different. Unlikely figures show up prominently and all this information is available in the public domain through the Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA).

What this is really about is ensuring that where two students have equal ability (not necessarily measured by A-level results alone), the place isn't automatically given to the posh one. It's also trying to take into account that pupils who don't do well at school may just have had cr*p schools and giving them the chance through summer top-up programmes or similar to prove their suitability for undergraduate study.

Universities play the long game. If they start admitting inferior or unsuitable pupils this will affect their rankings; as a result they attract fewer and fewer high quality students and less in the way of grants or research funding. You wind up with a vicious spiral that only leads to the U-bend.
Hmmmm. Seems like the "Middle Class Compact", is being dropped.
I see a need to be a dosser with no fixed abode, in order to get the most out of this Eutopian future.

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