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UCU comment on universities' access agreements

22 August 2017 | last updated: 1 April 2019

UCU said universities' efforts to widen participation were to be welcomed, but that the government should not force universities to sponsor schools.

The union said sponsoring schools was not universities' core business and making it mandatory could divert funds away from genuine widening participation initiatives in to a box-ticking exercise.

UCU was commenting on the annual summary of key data from universities' access agreements published by the Office for Fair Access (OFFA). The union said it was concerned about the importance and resources OFFA seemed to place on working with controversial University Technical Colleges.

UCU has produced a charter to support greater transparency, and fairness in the higher education admission process.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'Universities' efforts to increase participation amongst students from some of the poorest areas of society and within groups that traditionally do not make it through higher education are to be welcomed. However, we do not believe that sponsoring schools is their core business.

'While some universities may choose this option, the government should avoid moving to a one-size-fits-all approach which forces universities to funnel resources into school sponsorship, otherwise it risks becoming merely a box-ticking exercise.

'We are also concerned about the importance OFFA seems to be placing on working with the failed University Technical College model. There should be a far greater emphasis on working with all existing further education colleges and schools rather than diverting funds to struggling UTCs, many of which have already squandered considerable sums of public money.'