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The new rules oblige universities to reduce the entrance requirements for poor students

A REGISTRATIONS FOR most universities expire on the 15th January, so the trainers have a month to choose a course and present anecdotes for their personal statement. It's a difficult process, but especially for those who are not in a school that pushes students to college on the bus. Despite this, much progress has been made in the last decade. Largely thanks to the expansion of higher education, 18-year-olds from the poorest parts of the country are now almost twice as likely to go to college as they were a dozen years ago.

But most of the newcomers end up in less prestigious universities. So now the focus is on expanding access to the elite. On December 13, the Office for Students (OFS), a new regulator, published its plans. People who leave school in parts of the country where college attendance is most common are five times more likely to attend a higher university than students in the parts where it is most unusual to go. The regulator wants to reduce this to 2.8 times by 2024-25, as well as to improve the eventual results of these students. It can fine institutions that do not make enough progress.

So far, the slow progress is not because the more luxurious universities treat poor applicants less favorably than their richer counterparts. Mark Corver, of data HE a consultant, says the admissions system is "surprisingly fair" when judging whether people go where they are expected to get their qualifications. Approximately 69.2% of adolescents who apply to elite institutions in areas where college attendance is rare receive offers, compared to 69.4% that are expected to be based on their grades and chosen courses. Therefore, the offer recently because of the large gap in university participation.

So, how will the universities fulfill the objective? They could improve efforts to get more poor school students to register and be more ambitious in the choice of institutions. Until recently, these schemes have been characterized by munificence. Last year, universities spent £ 750 million ($ 950 million) to expand access and support disadvantaged students, if not success. Many relied on misguided outreach programs. Others too often used (and continue to use) scholarships as a way to catch the best applicants of their rivals, instead of helping those most in need of financial support.

Later, more universities are thinking seriously, not only how to raise awareness in general college, but also how to improve achievement so that children are able to apply. This tends to involve building deeper relationships with fewer schools and, sometimes, funding charities like IntoUniversity. It has 30 learning centers, which aim to replicate the support houses of their peers in better conditions, in parts of the country with low university participation. Children come after school to do their homework and other activities. At a branch in Weston-super-Mare, the tiddlers of the elementary school solemnly explain what they want to study at the university. A mother, whose daughter is an aspiring fashion student, says the center "gives hope for the next generation."

The OFS will spend money to discover how to do that work effectively. But these efforts will take time to produce results. Therefore, to meet the new objectives, universities will also have to make greater use of "contextual admissions," which adjust expectations for the circumstances of an applicant. Someone who would be, say, the first in his family to go to college could be examined more closely by admission officers, or even admitted with ABB degrees in A ] – level instead of AAA . The idea is that the lower results achieved in difficult circumstances indicate a similar level of ability to obtain better results obtained by public schoolchildren. In fact, research suggests that students from worse schools are more likely to obtain a first or second class higher than those with the same grades as better schools (with the exception of those at Oxbridge).

Anna Vignoles, an education expert at the University of Cambridge, estimates that half of the universities already use contextual admissions in some way, although the rigor of the criteria used and the extent to which they publish it vary. The OFS knows that he is fighting against the incentives imposed by the tables of the university league, since the results of the students A are one of the factors used to classify institutions Those that admit students with worse results can lower the ranking). And a crucial test remains. If the children of middle-class voters are kept out of the best universities by colleagues with lower grades, politicians may be less enthusiastic about expanding access.

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