Class Wars: The Russell Group universities’ admissions are getting tougher as this year UK GCSE results plunge.
The percentage of students from poor backgrounds going to the country’s leading universities has dramatically fallen in recent decades.
New GCSEs brought in this summer were the most challenging exams seen in home schools in over three decades education leaders claim; and GCSEs, being the bridge to A-levels, means the path to the elite universities is becoming more competitive than ever before.
According to a Department for Education spokesperson: “The new GCSEs will provide more rigorous content and the new grading system provides greater stretch for the highest performers… These changes will help young people to compete with the best in the world and deliver the skills that employers tell us they need”.
It is believed that throughout England, children with professional parents are more likely to attend a top Russell Group university than those from working-class homes.
According to a recent report, around 73 per cent of this gap was due to the fact that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve lower results at A-level.
England’s top state secondary schools are fast becoming the preserve of the middle classes who can afford to live in catchment areas, researchers added, as children across the country received catastrophic results.
Poorer GCSE results ineluctably impact A-levels and, consequently, university degrees; an academic domino effect.
The number of low income students attending the UK’s leading universities falls as very few families can afford to live in catchment areas with the best state schools.
The Russell Group is a self-selected association of twenty-four public research universities in the United Kingdom. Five of the 24 universities in the more selective Russell Group of universities are Cambridge, Oxford, St. Andrews, the London School of Economy, and Imperial College, London
The top three reasons why children from low income backgrounds don’t make it to the elite universities can be listed as follows.
- Poverty/social class
It now seems more difficult than it has been for decades for children from poorer backgrounds to transcend their parents’ status through education. Is Britain intentionally failing its children? Latest figures reveal that children in the UK whose parents are struggling on the minimum wage, and ethnic minorities groups, are increasingly unable to afford higher education due to the Government’s trebling of university tuition fees, let alone reach the elite universities.
How fair and transparent is the British education system? Do children’s educational prospects simply come down to a postcode lottery? New research by estate and letting agents Savills has revealed some of the best places to live in England that fall into catchment areas with top-performing state schools:
- Best places to live with good schools in the south of England
-Epsom and Ewell, average house price £463,239
-Gloucester, average house price £198,019
- Best places to live with good schools in the north of England
-Trafford, average house price £416,025
-Harrogate, average house price £312,523
- Best places to live with good schools in or near to London
-Sutton, average house price £372,713
-Watford, average house price £353,022
-Hammersmith and Fulham, average house price £1,222,642
- Best places to live with good schools in the Midlands
-Warwick, average house price £334,016
-South Northamptonshire, average house price £294,050
- Misinformation/ Grade achievement
Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, states in a recent report that the main reason pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are unable to access leading universities “is because they are not achieving the right grades in the right subjects… [and] that some very bright students are not encouraged to apply for leading universities. We cannot offer places to those who do not apply or who have not done the right subjects to study their chosen course’’.
For fairer access to higher education/ world-class universities
The top five universities in the Russell Group have been branded ‘elitist’ as they lack diversity of intake each year. It is alleged they discriminate by admitting a below average number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and ethnic minorities.
Black and Asian students and those from disadvantaged areas face a rising battle to access the universities of their choice, unlike their white and better-off peers, according to recent statistics released by UCAS, the British higher education clearing house.
The Sutton Trust admitted students applying from disadvantaged areas were less likely to receive offers at any university, but that the effect was more pronounced at the most selective institutions.
The Sutton Trust is an educational charity in the UK which aims to improve social mobility and address educational disadvantage.
The figures, which reveal data about applications by 18-year-old students broken down by sex, ethnicity and social background at individual universities, show that black and Asian students fail to win undergraduate places with the same rate of success at the bulk of British universities as white students with similar qualifications.
At university level, access and admissions officials should collaborate more with initiatives such as the Sutton Trust, Target Schools, and UNIQ, all of which provide free summer schools and internships that aim to enrol students who wouldn’t necessarily consider applying to the Russell Group.