Universities to provide more help to disadvantaged students

24 Nov 2021

UK universities will need to set ambitious targets to lower the dropout rates and bolster graduates’ progression into highly-paid skilled jobs within the government’s levelling-up plans. In addition, higher education schools and colleges will be required to improve education for children from low-income families via certain activities such as providing teachers and students to tutor pupils. According to universities minister Michelle Donelan, the measures will help to prevent universities across the country from placing students on courses that result in “dropping out, frustration and unemployment.” Universities will be told to amend their access plans to include stringent targets to bolster the number of students on degree apprenticeships and higher technical qualifications.

Improving outcomes for underprivileged students

Universities will also be pressed to improve outcomes for the more disadvantaged pupils in nearby schools and colleges. They’ll do this by providing tutoring, additional support for curriculum development and running summer schools. The minister for higher and further education said in a speech to the higher education sector: “We need to be making getting on as important as getting in. Gone will be the days where universities were recruiting students onto courses that lead to dropping out, frustration and unemployment. A student’s outcome after university needs to be as important to providers as a student’s grades before university. We need to send a message to every disadvantaged young person thinking about higher education that they will have the support through school, college and university to get there and achieve a positive outcome for themselves.”

More funding for BAME students

The UK government has unveiled £8 million in funding to eliminate barriers to postgraduate research for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students. A total of 13 projects are in the pipeline focused on recruitment and increasing the number of BAME female professors. According to Professor Steve West, president of Universities UK (UUK) and vice-chancellor of UWE Bristol: “Universities are central to social mobility and levelling up opportunity, and are committed to accelerating access to higher education, particularly for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, while ensuring students have a high-quality university experience. Universities stand ready to play a full part in education recovery from the pandemic by reaching out further and wider to the talent of tomorrow and supporting efforts to raise school-age attainment.”