Give more places to disadvantaged students, watchdog urges universities

The new higher education watchdog, the Office for Students (OfS), is urging universities to pay more attention to socio-economic and school background, rather than just A-level grades, when deciding to award a place to a student. It wants institutions to be more ambitious on what are known as “contextual admissions”, offering places to students who have the potential to study at the highest level, but may be at a disadvantage because of background and school. Most universities already use contextual data in their admissions process as part of efforts to widen access to their courses, but while lower- and middle-tier universities have made advances, leading institutions have been criticised for their “incredibly slow” progress on recruiting from the most disadvantaged groups. The OfS intervention increases the pressure – particularly on the most selective institutions – to significantly improve equality of opportunity in higher education and to do it quickly. Read more