Fears that half of England's poorest students will not be able to attend university | Higher education
Nearly half of all underprivileged pupils in England might not go to college under the government's plans for a minimum GCSE entry level for higher education, warn university leaders.
The vice chancellors believe the government is poised to introduce a new entry threshold for a place in college courses as a means of curbing its mounting student loan debt, with outstanding loans reaching 140 billion pounds last year. They expect the government to announce that students will not be eligible for a student loan unless they have at least a level 4 (the equivalent of a former C grade) in math and English at GCSE.
An analysis of the Department of Education (DfE) GCSE results data conducted by the Million Plus group of modern universities and submitted to the Guardian shows that under the plan, 48% of all disadvantaged students in England would be ineligible for a student loan to pay the £ 9,250- annual fees.
Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, President of Million Plus and Vice Chancellor of Christ Church University of Canterbury, said: “This policy reinforces the inequality between rich and poor, north and south and black and white. It is introducing an 11-plus system through the back door. "
Government figures show that 52% of disadvantaged youth achieve grade 4 in English and GCSE math compared to the national average for 71%. "So you're almost saying to a generation of underprivileged kids, 'You can't get a student loan,'" Thirunamachandran said. "That's incorporating inequality, not leveling up."
Million Plus analyzed the GCSE results in math and English by parliamentary constituency and found that the policy would affect young people in the poorer areas of the north of England much harder than in the richer areas of the south.
We have already labeled a third of students who take the GCSE English and math exams as failures, this will only doom them more "
For example, below the proposed threshold, 54% of Great Grimsby students would not be eligible for a student loan, as would 50% in Leeds Central, 49% in Bootle, Knowsley and Nottingham North, and 47% in Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough. In contrast, in the south only 12% of students would be excluded in Hitchin and Harpenden, 14% in St Albans and 15% in London and Westminster, Chipping Barnet and Richmond Park.
Thiru namachandran said: “The question is, if you are a parent in one of these less privileged regions in the north, will you just accept that your child does not have the same right to go to college as someone in a more privileged place? In the south? That is the political bet that the government is taking. ”
It is believed that the government believes that many voters would find it reasonable to expect students to be proficient in numeracy and literacy, so the idea is a politically safe way to reduce the number of students.
Claire Callender, Professor of Higher Education at Birkbeck University and the Institute of Education at University College London, said: "This is a limit on the number of students out the back door, but not a limit on all potential students, just the most disadvantaged and those most affected by Covid ".
She argued that a minimum entry-level requirement indicated "an abandonment of any government concern about expanding HE participation and fostering social mobility" and said that "cementing existing social divisions among young people in a at a time when they are widening rather than narrowing. ”
Sir David Bell, former permanent secretary of the DfE and now v Chancellor of the University of Sunderland, said the entry threshold would be seen as" a limit to aspiration ".