SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
1. We recommend that the Government should commission
further research into differences in participation rates between
areas of similar social composition in other parts of England
in order to supply robust data on the basis of which effective
policies may be developed. We recommend that Regional Development
Authorities, Learning and Skills Councils and Regional Assemblies,
where proposed, should take a lead role in partnership with higher
education institutions in addressing geographic areas of under
participation, so-called 'cold spots' (paragraph 20).
2. We welcome the work undertaken by HEFCE to
establish a common system of measuring aspects of performance
of higher education institutions. We recommend that higher education
institutions should consider these performance indicators regularly,
and any other indicators which become available, as a means of
examining their own performance and setting new targets (paragraph
3. We recommend that the UCAS application process
for undergraduate courses should identify applicants with no family
history of participation in higher education, so-called 'first-generation'
students (paragraph 27).
4. "Prospects for widened participation
will be transformed when schools succeed in persuading students
from poor backgrounds to stay on in school beyond the age of 16."
We agree (paragraph 28).
5. We welcome the introduction of the pilot scheme
for Educational Maintenance Awards. We look forward to the evaluation
of this pilot scheme to determine whether this form of financial
incentive has a significant effect on participation rates of young
people from low-income families in further and higher education
6. This suggests that part of the answer will
be continuing the drive to improve performance in the maintained
sector. Regardless of the amount of university outreach work or
additional targeted access funding and student financial support,
it would be easier for applications (particularly to the more
selective universities) to reach proportionality with the number
of pupils in each sector if results in maintained schools approach
those in independent schools. This would create more proportionately
sized qualified cohorts of potential applicants to these universities
7. We recommend that those institutions which
do not reach the benchmarks established by HEFCE should come under
particular scrutiny, and should be encouraged to learn from best
practice elsewhere in the higher education sector. Where an institution
significantly underperforms its benchmark it should be required
to publish action plans on its strategies to widen access. We
further recommend that key applied subjects such as medicine,
law and performing arts should be closely monitored by subject
for evidence of successful promotion of entry for candidates from
broad socio-economic backgrounds (paragraph 34).
8. We recommend that HEFCE should review the
introduction of these new qualifications to measure the extent
to which they contribute to widening access to higher education
but also encourage and build on existing good practice in universities
to widen access for further education students into higher education
9. We recommend that sponsors of summer schools
which aim to widen access should monitor carefully whether these
initiatives are reaching students who would not in other circumstances
consider higher education. These activities must not act as enrichment
activities for the most able, but should aim to create interest
in higher education among young people whose personal and educational
experience does not encourage them to progress to higher education.
Initiatives should be targeted at school pupils as young as thirteen
to ensure they can consider university well before GCSE options
are chosen in Year 9. There is a danger that the limited number
of places which are available at these summer schools could be
'captured' by students who already have a keen interest in higher
education (paragraph 42).
10. We recognise a need for greater professionalism
in the management of admissions to UK universities. We recommend
the Government should provide where necessary additional resources
to enable universities to recruit and train professional staff
to manage the process of admissions (paragraph 48).
11. We recommend that examination boards should
make available, with the consent of students via their schools
and colleges, the names and examination results of students who
have successfully completed GCSE and equivalent qualifications.
This would enable universities to write to students, via the school
or college where they sat their examinations, inviting appropriately
qualified students to consider higher education as an option once
they have completed their A levels or vocational A levels (paragraph
12. We welcome developments in some universities
to introduce outreach schemes to raise the aspirations of students
who otherwise may not consider higher education. Such schemes
are of particular importance for universities offering courses
which are already over-subscribed with well-qualified applicants,
who may not otherwise seek actively to recruit even more applications
13. We agree with the many witnesses who argued
that quotas for admission of certain students groups would be
inappropriate. We recommend that all higher education institutions
should establish and make public their targets for a range of
access performance indicators. The benchmarks calculated by HEFCE
for each institution could provide a model for the calculation
of benchmarks towards which each institution could work (paragraph
14. We welcome the Government's moves to tackle
under-representation in higher education from inner city areas,
particularly through the Excellence in Cities programme. We recommend
that the Government should consider whether the performance of
individual schools and colleges in supporting wider access to
higher education should be subject to a similar process of performance
indicators and benchmarks as all higher education institutions
15. We recommend that focused schemes similar
to the Education Action Zones recently established by Government,
should be set up for higher education. These would co-ordinate
activities of schools and colleges, the Learning and Skills Councils,
the Connexions Service and other relevant agencies in the zone.
Each zone would have partner higher education institutions, acting
on behalf of the higher education sector as a whole, not just
to promote access to a single institution. Funding such initiatives
would provide incentives for both students and institutions to
raise aspirations and widen access. Such zones would not be established
on a permanent basis, but would receive funding until what can
be called the 'culture of non-participation' in higher education
in their areas had been eradicated or at least substantially diminished.
As part of this recommendation, we also suggest that close consideration
should be given to linking such zones to existing Educational
Maintenance Allowance pilot schemes, which would enable outcomes
to be more closely monitored (paragraph 62).
16. We believe that this new money, paid to those
institutions that currently fail to recruit students from lower
socio-economic groups, rewards those who fail rather than succeed.
We prefer such funding to be added to the participation premium
17. We recommend that:
- Immediate consideration should be given
to raising the existing 5 per cent 'participation premium' to
at least 20 per cent.
- In reviewing the funding regime for future
years serious consideration should be given to raising the per
capita premium for students from low participation neighbourhoods
by as much as 50 per cent.
- Participation premiums should be continued
for each year the student is registered in order to encourage
retention. Part of the premium for the second and subsequent years
of a course should be front-loaded and paid to institutions in
the first year, in order to help resource the additional teaching
and pastoral support which some students from non-traditional
backgrounds are likely to need.
- Where appropriate at least some of the money
provided by Government to support programmes that will increase
the proportions of students from social groups IV and V should
be built into funding baselines, with institutional success in
enhancing participation carefully monitored.
- More should be done to address under-representation
from areas other than inner cities, including areas of rural deprivation.
- HEFCE should encourage research into the so-called
'hot' spots where, despite relatively severe levels of deprivation,
participation rates in higher education are high, to identify
factors which account for success in these areas. (Paragraph 64).
18. We agree that the new system of financial
support for students attending university in England and Wales
is not excessively complex. However, it is essential that information
about financial support available to students is readily accessible,
clear, unambiguous and presented in such a way as to encourage
enquiries and applications, and attention needs to be devoted
to ensuring that existing arrangements meet these criteria (paragraph
19. This is a period of significant change in
the arrangements for students' financial support. We recommend
that the Department for Education and Employment, working with
individual universities, should monitor closely and report on
the operation of the new financial support arrangements (paragraph
20. We are particularly interested in the possible
impact of those arrangements on the number of applications from
potential students with no family tradition of going to higher
education (paragraph 71).
21. We believe that the income threshold for
repayment of student loans in England and Wales, and also in Scotland
and Northern Ireland, places too great a burden on graduates'
income, and that the income threshold should be raised (paragraph
22. We are concerned that not all state schools
and colleges will be able to provide resources to prepare students
for the new AEA awards. We recommend their introduction and use
should be carefully monitored. These new awards should not reintroduce
barriers to university entrance which would be difficult to overcome
for students from less well resourced schools (paragraph 83).
23. We recommend that steps should be taken to
assemble existing findings and to fund new research that would
encourage a considered and evidencebased approach to improving
admission procedures. The objective of such an evidence based
approach should be widening access without threatening the merit
basis of admissions and the maintenance and improvement of academic
standards (paragraph 83).
24. We recommend that the DfEE should undertake
a full review of modularisation and degrees taking more than three
years. Such a review should take account of the resources and
infra-structural support that higher education institutions require
in order to offer more flexible forms of study (paragraph 84).
25. We recommend that university and college
admissions offices should establish and publish criteria for taking
decisions on candidates who have missed their offers which are
as clear as possible (paragraph 86).
26. We welcome the proposals from the Independent
Commission on the Organisation of the School Year. We strongly
support moves toward an academic calendar which allows applications
to higher education to be based on students' qualification results
(Post Qualification Applications) rather than projections of their
performance. The Independent Commission's report is an important
contribution to this debate, and should be acted upon with all
possible speed (paragraph 90).
27. We deeply regret that some universities do
not appear prepared to use the proposed UCAS tariff where it could
be relevant and could increase flexibility as part of a strategy
to achieve wider participation. We welcome the initiative taken
by UCAS to develop a tariff-based system to provide a means of
recognising the range of qualifications which now provide students
with the necessary preparation for study in higher education (paragraph
28. We recommend that universities should respond
fully and with sufficient urgency to the development of new AS
qualifications. Any complacency or undue delay would threaten
a significant and challenging development in post-16 education.
We also recommend that Government should require universities
in receipt of public funds to make public their policies on the
use of AS examinations in their admissions criteria (paragraph
29. This information should be published annually
by every institution to help identify and then address any such
problems (paragraph 98).
30. We recommend that HEFCE, UCAS and others
should commission research into the relative performance in higher
education of equally qualified students educated in both independent
and state funded schools (paragraph 100).
31. Although we have some reservations about
the Sutton Trust's recommendation for introduction of aptitude
tests as a key element in widening access (though as part of a
mix for so doing they might well have merit), we do believe the
Trust makes a compelling case for a powerful and pro-active package
of measures to be introduced by universities and HEFCE so as to
widen access (paragraph 101).
32. We recommend that, in the interests of ensuring
that the interview process is as transparent and as fair as possible,
universities themselves should establish the broad principles
governing the conduct of admissions interviews and these should
be made known to all interested parties. We recommend that a working
group should be established jointly by representatives of the
school and university sector to promote more open dialogue about
the applications process. We recommend that university admissions
interviews should be conducted only by properly trained staff,
who need not necessarily be exclusively teaching staff (paragraph
33. We welcome the publication by Oxford and
Cambridge of admissions data on a college-by-college basis. We
recommend that such data should also be published in future years
to achieve the transparency which should characterize the admissions
systems of all universities. All those involved in college admissions
should be properly trained to conduct interviews (paragraph 107).
34. We recommend that UCAS should apply the same
closing date to applications for all universities, including all
medical and veterinary schools. This reform should be introduced
at the earliest possible date (paragraph 108).
35. We believe that the present college-based
admissions system might be a significant barrier to the timely
response to criticisms of the low proportion of suitably qualified
students from lower socio-economic backgrounds admitted to many
colleges. The college-based system of admission to Oxbridge should
not be used as an excuse for inaction. We recommend that for Oxford
and Cambridge HEFCE's performance indicators, at least for those
relating to the socio-economic backgrounds of candidates who apply
and are admitted, should be dis-aggregated to college level so
that the performance of each college in widening access can be
assessed (paragraph 109).
36. There are currently numerous college and
university based schemes taking place. This suggests that the
collegiate system allows different approaches to be tried and
best practice adopted more widely (paragraph 111).
37. We have well over one hundred excellent universities
and colleges of higher education, with a range of different strengths.
Very often this fact is obscured by the misuse of league tables