Monday, June 4, 2012

SNP Government fails to get a grip of elite universities failing to recruit poorest students; they want to treat symptoms not cure the disease

Dear All

One of the things about Scottish Universities which I have blogged on is the appalling record of admitting people from deprived backgrounds.

St Andrews University recruited only 13 students from the most deprived backgrounds of the country in 2010/11.


And down the road at Edinburgh University had just 5% of its student population from the most deprived sector gaining access.

Do universities need the poor?

Yes, they do, it is the cover they need to access government cash via the Scottish Funding Council.

Edinburgh admitted only 91 poor students.

Aberdeen University wasn’t much better in helping the poor, a measly 51 students.

Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland, said:

"These statistics are shocking. For an institution like St Andrews to take 13 students from the poorest backgrounds last year shows just how badly some of our institutions perform.

Parker added:

"University places should be given to those who have the most talent and potential. Unless institutions do more to widen access, they're missing out on some of those with the most potential who could get the best degrees. They are, quite frankly, not doing their job properly."

In leaping to the defence of excluding the poor, Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, said the data should not be interpreted as a lack of commitment among universities to widen access.

What every year they can’t find bright poor people?

Sim added:

"To deliver significant change in universities, you first need to tackle the root of the problem, which is the large gap in attainment according to deprivation in schools, as recent reports have confirmed."

Try removing the glass ceiling of university interviews which are used to exclude so that students from rich backgrounds make up a disproportionate number.

Sim again:

"We are working to open up opportunities – such as articulation, admissions taking account of context, summer schools and close engagement with primary and secondary schools – and will be looking at what more can be done."
It is a smokescreen, and a smokescreen which the Scottish Government also hides behind.

Lots of talk, lots of paper, lots of initiatives but the bottom line is still one of exclusion.

Higher education in Scotland is primary run by a rich middle class from a private invitation club called The Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Previously I blogged that of the exclusion of poorer students in many posts, now the evidence that Scottish universities are recruiting a smaller proportion of students from working-class backgrounds than 10 years ago is in the public domain.

George Laird was right again.

The situation has arisen because access to university is tightly controlled, with pupils given priority depending on their exam results.

The Scottish Government recently announced plans to give universities binding targets on widening participation, if they fail to dos so, they can face the prospect of fines.

Expect to see ‘fine paying universities’ enter the Scottish psyche.

In order to massage the figures, John Field, Professor of Lifelong Learning at Stirling University has called for greater use of articulation.

He said:

"We have always had a special card to play in Scotland to help with this and that is articulation of Higher National qualifications where students can move from college to university. There is plenty of evidence that universities are simply not taking articulation seriously."

The reason why is possibly since they excluded these people in the first place, they would probably not want to slot them in either in second or third year.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government added:

"We have seen an increase in participation rates in higher education in recent years, including a narrowing of the gap between the proportion of students from the most and least deprived areas.

St Andrew’s 13, Aberdeen 51, Edinburgh 91!

Yes, we can see you’re really trying hard as the current trend shows.

By giving universities the power to exclude nothing will change, students should be interviewed by a separate body out with universities to break up the cartel, and that body should have no representation from universities sitting on its board or in the selection process.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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