Universities Still Failing Poor Students, Access Report Shows
PA -- Nearly one in four universities and colleges failed to meet their own targets to recruit more poor students last year, a new report shows.
In total, 44 institutions, including 23 universities, five of which are elite universities, did not meet the goals they set themselves in 2009/10.
The figures are included in the Office for Fair Access's (OFFA) fourth monitoring report, which looks at how much money universities and colleges are spending, and how well they are doing at attracting and supporting candidates from poorer backgrounds.
It shows that overall, English universities and colleges received £1.57 billion in additional fee income in 2009/10. This is additional fee income gained from tuition fees charged above the basic rate of £1,285. The maximum fee in 2009/10 was £3,225.
OFFA's report shows that a quarter of this extra income (25.1%) - £394.7 million - was spent on recruiting and supporting poorer candidates, with £355.7 million going on bursaries and scholarships. In return for charging above the basic fee rate, institutions must submit access agreements to OFFA setting out how they plan to help poorer students.
Liam Burns, president of the National Union of Students, said: "The haphazard formation of student support in universities means that those universities with the best record of recruiting those from non-traditional backgrounds have the least money available to spend per student.
"Universities with poorer access records misleadingly claim success because they have more funds available to a very small pool of students."
The union claimed that its own analysis of official figures shows that around £55 million less will be spent on scholarships and bursaries by 2015/16 compared with 2009/10.
Universities minister David Willetts said that universities could take into account pupils' school backgrounds when offering places if it improved access.
"Universities have always been able to look at potential," he told the BBC. "Provided they are fair and evidence-based and transparent - in other words, it is not some kind of eccentric attempt to fight class war - provided they have got rigorous evidence for the basis of what they are doing, then yes they can do that."