The UK education system fails to encourage disadvantaged pupils to apply to top universities, fearing that they are full of ‘posh’ students, a government report claimed. A study commissioned by the Department of Education - based on surveys and interviews with teachers and children - revealed that pupils from poor families were clearly differentiating Oxford and Cambridge universities from other institutions. Not only for their reputation as being ‘the best’; but also retaining an image of being ‘posh’, ‘higher class’ and somehow ‘snobby’. Pupils from a low socio-economic background felt that Oxbridge institutions involve a highbrow environment, which doesn’t make them feel included or comfortable.
Schools Don’t Promote Bright Children’s Applications to Top Universities
Overall, 92% of schools with sixth-forms claimed that they would encourage applications to Russell Group universities, while numbers stood at 82% for colleges. However, the research suggested that teachers would rarely encourage high-achieving disadvantaged students, to apply to leading universities.
Only 14% of 11-to-16 schools encouraged applications among poor pupils, while the rate was as low as 28% in school sixth-forms and 29% in colleges.
A Sutton Trust report released in 2012 demonstrated that less than half of secondary state school teachers say they would advise their brightest pupils to apply to Oxbridge universities. Despite Russell Group universities spending more than £200 million on outreach and financial support programmes, with the Sutton Trust and others.
The ‘Future Scholar Awards Scheme’ to Encourage Poor Pupils Apply for Top Universities
Meanwhile, the newly released Future Scholar Awards scheme will give the opportunity to disadvantaged high school pupils to spend a day at one of the 24 Russell Group universities, with one of their teachers. According to the schools minister David Laws, the scheme aims to let pupils “get a taste of studying at a top university” through experiencing university lectures and seminars”. The minister adds that “too many bright pupils who have the potential to study at this level miss out simply because they never thought of applying, or never knew they could”.
All in all, the UK education system should raise the aspirations of teenagers – regardless of socio-economic background, to encourage them apply to high-ranking universities so as to create an all-inclusive education which does not exclude disadvantaged students in favour of more affluent students. In the end, both disadvantaged and advantaged students should have equal opportunity to ‘graduate from leading universities’. The right to learn and get educated is precious and should be equally distributed across all social segments and strata.