University fears over state school access

Eleanor Dickinson - Deputy News Editor 30 April 2011

Cambridge University has conceded that it will struggle to attract pupils from state schools as a result of the tuition fees rise. This admission comes despite the government’s expectations that universities charging £9,000 in tuition fees would “dramatically” increase their intake of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In documents submitted to the Office For Fair Access (OFFA), Cambridge announced its main target after the fees rise will be to maintain the status quo.

The University told The Guardian that “Given the uncertainty regarding application trends in light of the new financial circumstances, our minimum objective for 2012 will be to maintain our intake profile.” They did however stress the hope of raising the current intake of state school students from 59% to between 61 and 63% by 2015.

Nevertheless, OFFA can only reject Cambridge’s plans to charge the maximum fees if it believes the university has been “seriously negligent” in its interpretation of the office’s published guidance.

However, Cambridge University Student’s Union (CUSU) President Rahul Mansigani commented: “It is hardly surprising that Cambridge’s minimum objective will be to maintain current levels of state sector students: trebled fees are hugely damaging to our efforts at widening participation.”

Andy McGowan, CUSU Access Officer, blogged recently saying that under-representation “does not automatically mean the institution is the one to blame” and instead that the government itself needs to be “tackling low attainment…amongst those from under-represented backgrounds.”

“It should be opening doors rather than shutting them off and it should be about promoting offers available, rather than trying to grab easy headlines.”

Eleanor Dickinson – Deputy News Editor