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Union responds to HEPI report on underachievement of young men in higher education

12 May 2016 | last updated: 13 May 2016

UCU said today that the underachievement of young men shows the need for radical action on both careers advice and university outreach programmes.

The union was responding to a new report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), Boys to Men: The underachievement of young men in higher education and how to start tackling it, which outlines how young men, especially those from poorer backgrounds, are not fulfilling their potential within the higher education system.

The report echoes research carried out by UCU, exploring young people's views on their education and training options, which identified distinct differences in the careers advice received by young men and women, as well as those of different social classes and those attending state and private schools.

As well as showing that privately educated children are more than twice as likely to want to go to university as those from the state sector, UCU's research showed that young men (55%) are significantly less likely to state they want to go to university than young women (63%).

The union said that better careers advice and a greater use of outreach programmes for pre-university students would help to improve outcomes for young men and ensure they benefit from the positive impact that higher education study can have.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Whilst we welcome HEPI's research, we are concerned that class, gender and schooling still play far too large a part in whether young people even consider university, with boys from state schools and the poorest economic backgrounds faring worst.

'The report shows that policy makers and the sector must do more to ensure that future generations of students are not hindered by gender or social background. Improving careers advice and a fairer system of financial support are key steps towards reducing these persistent inequalities at graduate level.

'We want to see a comprehensive package that includes national careers advice for all and taxpayer support for an expansion of outreach work in the community by universities and colleges.'