Fair Access to the Professions report

21 July 2009

Responding to the publication of ‘Unleashing Aspiration’, the final report by the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, Director General of The Russell Group of Universities, Dr Wendy Piatt, said:

“The Russell Group was pleased to contribute to this report and show the huge range of innovative programmes at our universities which assist students from non-traditional backgrounds to access higher education and progress into competitive professions.

“Academic achievement is the key factor in determining whether a student will go on to university and subsequently thrive in their chosen career. Once a pupil from a working class background has managed to overcome all the barriers they have faced and achieved the grades they need to go to university – they are just as likely to do so as their middle class peers. Financial considerations do not play a significant role in access to higher education. In fact under the new system of deferred fees, loans and grants there has been a huge rise in applications to English universities. Therefore, we would be wary of any recommendations that involved reducing fees as it will not address the core problem - namely under-achievement at school. This is why Russell Group universities are working hard to help raise academic attainment and aspirations; our staff and students devote an increasing amount of their time to working closely with local schools and colleges and providing access courses and foundation years.

“With regards to the recommendation on contextual information, when selecting students, our universities already draw on a range of factors and information in order to identify potential, which may not be reflected in traditional qualifications. For example, some universities will take into account any particular barriers the candidate may have faced during their education such as spending time in care.

“We agree that better information for potential students is a priority, particularly for pupils from families who haven’t been to university, or who have less knowledge about higher education. Russell Group universities are making concerted efforts to ensure that teachers, parents and pupils receive the better information, guidance and encouragement to apply to their courses. Our universities want to ensure that potential students have as much information as possible, which is why they publish their admissions policies on their websites, UCAS entry profiles, in prospectuses and even through podcasts and videos online.

“The Russell Group is more than happy to work with the Government, schools and particularly employers in the professions, to build on our experience and further open access to higher education and the professions to people from all backgrounds.”

Policy area

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