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Reform university admissions to increase proportion of disadvantaged students at elite universities

18 February 2016 | last updated: 25 February 2016

UCU said today that the best way to ensure fair access to elite universities for disadvantaged students was to reform university admissions.

UCU was responding to analysis by the Press Association in Times Higher Education, which showed a decline in the proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds at seven Russell Group universities over the past decade.

The union said that the news was disappointing and highlighted the need for admissions reform to ensure fair access to university. It added that the current system of university admissions is poorly understood by many students, and that admissions based on highly inaccurate predicted grades lack transparency.

Around half (48.6%) the respondents to a recent UCU survey of admissions staff disagreed that students understand how their university application would be assessed. The same survey also showed strong support for a move to post-qualification admissions, which would see students getting offers based on actual rather than predicted grades.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'This is just the latest in a string of examples which shows that the current system, particularly at the UK's top universities, is not working fairly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

'It is highly disappointing that the proportion of disadvantaged students at several institutions has fallen, despite strong commitments to outreach work. This reinforces the need for a more radical overhaul of university admissions which is more transparent and based on students' actual achievement.'