23 January 2012

Proposals to extend student numbers market 'extraordinary' before impact on social mobility is properly assessed

The university think-tank million+ has responded to a report in today’s Times, that the Government intends to extend the student numbers market in 2013/14 by allowing the unrestricted recruitment of students achieving ABB or above at A-level.

Pam Tatlow, Chief Executive of million+, said: “The mini-market in AAB students, which will be introduced in 2012, will favour students from independent schools and constrain a university’s ability to widen access. The Government should allow the impact of this year’s changes on social mobility to be properly assessed before extending the market in student numbers. It would be extraordinary if the Government was to ignore the advice of UniversitiesUK and push ahead regardless.

The likely outcome of these changes will be to privilege a sub-section of students by transferring more taxpayer funding via the student loan system to universities with the most socially exclusive student profiles. This is the very opposite of the pupil premium. As a result, the Government risks undermining their commitment to social mobility.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The report in today’s Times is here (£).
  2. Students going to university with high A-level grades more often come from selective state and independent schools. Out of the 54,600 students in England aged 16-18 who achieved AAB or better in 2010 in A-Levels and AVCEs, 16,100 (29%) were at private schools even though only around 6% of all pupils are at private schools.
  3. Students with lower A-level grades from state schools are known to out-perform those with high A-level grades once they get to university. A five-year study Kirkup et al 2010 Use of an aptitude test in university entrance: a validity study: Final Report National Foundation for Educational Research co-funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Sutton Trust, the National Foundation for Educational Research and the College Board that tracked 8,000 A-level candidates found that a comprehensive school pupil with the grades BBB is likely to perform as well in at university as an independent or grammar school pupil with grades ABB or AAB.