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EDITIONS
Monday, 14 January, 2002, 14:01 GMT
Universities attacked over students' class
students outside school
New campaign targets under-represented teenagers
Education ministers have challenged top universities to do more to recruit students from poor backgrounds.


Background, not potential, is having an undue influence on people's life chances

Higher Education Minister, Margaret Hodge
An attack on their admissions practices came as the government began a campaign aimed at inspiring more young people to go into higher education.

The Aimhigher roadshows are intended to provide practical information to young people from families with no tradition of going to university.

The campaign, with the slogan "don't leave the future to chance", has the backing of supermodel Naomi Campbell, Liverpool and England midfielder Steven Gerrard and Radio One DJ Judge Jules.

Ministers pressed universities to do even more to open their doors to students from under-represented groups.

Background influence

They said they wanted top universities to follow the example of their counterparts in the United states, which made reaching out to young people from low income families an integral part of their admissions process.

The Higher Education Minister, Margaret Hodge, said: "Our top universities must also take a long hard look at their student intake.

"Over 85% of those who go to our top universities come from the top three income groups. That means that less than 15% of their students come from half the population.

"Background, not potential, is having an undue influence on people's life chances.

"In America the Ivy League universities invest many thousands of dollars in finding and identifying the most talented young people.

"Universities here must hunt out bright young people from disadvantaged areas."

Class

The Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, said the country could not continue allowing talent to go untapped.

"Nobody can think that middle class children are brighter than poorer children," she said.

"But then why are you five times more likely to enter higher education if you are from a professional background as opposed to an unskilled or manual background?"

Ms Morris reiterated the government's target of having 50% of young people go on to higher education by 2010.

It was, she said, "at the forefront of our vision for the future of education".

Universities 'acting already'

"It's an ambitious target, but with practical campaigns such as Aimhigher, is one that we can work together to achieve."

Universities UK, representing the heads of higher education institutions, said that for some time they had been working with schools and colleges to motivate, inspire and encourage young people to think about staying on in education after the age of 16.

"The Aimhigher roadshows will complement these initiatives and universities look forward to continuing their work with the teams as they travel round the country."

The three-year campaign is being sponsored by The Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest.

See also:

29 Jun 01 | Mike Baker
02 Jul 01 | Education
25 Apr 01 | Education
29 Jan 01 | Education
14 Sep 00 | Education
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