Top universities in England have been told to significantly increase their places for disadvantaged students. The Office for Students has stated that they want the “access gap” between poorer and wealthier students to be split in half by 2025. Whilst the number of students in the country has increased, the proportion of disadvantaged students at top universities remains unchanged. If achieved, this five year goal would see an additional 6,500 disadvantaged pupils secure places in leading universities, and it is expected that these students would be mostly from the Midlands and the North of England.
The Office of Students acknowledged that there is a “postcode lottery” which represents regional differences, whereas other sources have argued that the schools children go to, and the areas that they reside in, cannot be used to make generalised assumptions about to what extent a student is advantaged or disadvantaged. They have seen that young people from wealthier areas are six times more likely to get places at hard to access universities than their poorer peers. However, the leaders of private schools feel that universities should not discriminate against their students for having a more affluent background.
The executive director of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference Group of Independent Schools, Mike Buchanan, has argued that universities should increase their intake so that they can accept “as many truly suitable students and necessary, rather than rob some students of a future to award it to others”. Buchanan has additionally said that universities should not increase their number of international students whilst they are denying places to UK pupils.