Market Research Finds University Offers Ignore Social Background

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19th June 2013 13:20 - Education

Market research findings suggest that many UK universities do not consider candidates’ backgrounds when offering places; it is the government who wants universities to broaden access into higher education which it is felt should include poorer students.

A poll from admissions offices suggested that for landing a place at university strong grades, good written English, a passion for the course subject and a positive attitude to study are vital. Admissions tutors were asked to rate qualities that are most valued in potential students; a massive three quarters (78%) said they did not look at data on whether applicants’ parents had been to university whilst only about a third (35%) considered that "evidence of success through a difficult start or background" was important.

Surprisingly, just two fifths (20%) of admission tutors looked at whether applicants had taken part in university outreach days or summer schools with three in four (73%) not checking at all.  It appears that most admissions tutors like to “stay above the political fray” and select upon “ability alone”, whilst Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust felt that:

 "Universities should consider where a student went to school, their parents' occupation and whether either parent went to university”.

It appears that almost half (44%) of admission officers were interested in individuals who have a reasonable grasp of maths; almost three quarters (72%) think that the ability to think and work independently was of upmost importance whilst work experience and having held positions of responsibility was rated by fewer than a third.

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, stated:

“Many universities do consider a range of other contextual factors alongside applicants' grades, but this is a decision for individual universities.” 

Asking admissions tutors for their views on the merits of A-Levels, International Baccalaureate (IB) and Scottish Highers show that A-Levels were rated highest for subject expertise whilst IB was found to be better for qualities such as encouraging independence and coping with pressure.

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