UCU response to universities' plans to help poorest students

16 July 2015

Commenting on data published today showing how universities and colleges are supporting students from poor backgrounds, UCU said some institutions needed to do more.

The figures from OFFA - the body that regulates access to universities - showed that some institutions are shouldering the weight of this work while other institutions should set more challenging targets.

The report revealed that OFFA had to ask over half (56%) of the institutions that submitted their agreements on time to revise their original targets on spending on supporting students from the poorest backgrounds as they were not ambitious enough. OFFA data also showed that 60% of institutions had failed to set targets on ethnic groups, while a quarter (25%) did not set targets to address retention measures for students from the poorest backgrounds.

UCU said new government figures published yesterday highlighted how important it was that more was done to bolster students from poorer backgrounds' likelihood of getting to university. Those figures showed how just a quarter of state school pupils made it to most selective institutions, compared to two-thirds from the independent sector.

They also revealed that the gap between state and independent progression rates to the most selective institutions had widened in recent years.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Today's figures show that some institutions are doing more than is expected of them for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, while others still need to step up their efforts.

'Disadvantaged students should have their pick of institutions, not be limited to those that they know they can rely on them to support them through their studies.

'In the face of higher tuition fees and the relaxation of the rules limiting student numbers, it is going to be more important than ever for universities and colleges to plough money into retention measures, so it is worrying to discover a quarter did not set targets for this.'

Last updated: 16 March 2021