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Just 4% of Britain's poorest go to university; we need action not complacency UCU tells ministers

28 January 2010 | last updated: 11 December 2015

UCU said today that the government needed to act decisively to improve the chances of the poorest people in the country attending university.

As new figures on widening participation showed the gap between rich and poor children at university had widened, the union drew attention to the fact that Harriet Harman announced last week that just 4% of children receiving free school meals at age 15 went on to higher education.
The union said the government could not be complacent on the great university divide, particularly when today's report from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) revealed that young people from advantaged backgrounds are still much more likely to make it to university than youngsters from the poorest groups in society.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'As the deputy leader of the Labour Party made unpleasantly clear last week, there is a massive divide between rich and poor when it comes to university education.
'Today's figures may be presented in a way that suggests we have seen a recent rise in students from non-traditional backgrounds at university. However, the gap between rich and poor young people attending university has actually increased in the last 15 years. The government needs to be setting out what it will be doing to affect real change in this area – not being complacent or self-congratulatory.'