Universities Minister says more to be done to close the opportunity gap

The new Universities Minister, Greg Clark, has called for the “opportunity gap” between areas of highest and lowest university participation to be targeted. Speaking to the Telegraph, he said despite the gap narrowing in recent years, too many young people were still wasting their talent.

In the areas with the highest university participation rates, 68% of sixth-formers go to university; in the areas with the lowest rates, just 16% follow that path.

Mr Clark said that the government is working with universities to give them powers to create more places for students and wants them to act as “talent scouts” to find “young people who can achieve great things, wherever they are”. He also wants schools in certain areas to focus more on giving students the right advice on what A levels to take.

Record numbers of students have been accepted into university this year, but there are still criticisms about the numbers missing out. Young people from the poorest homes are ten times less likely to enter a top university than the richest, and three times less likely to do any degree course.

Poverty has long been a concern, but Mr Clark says that the area where pupils live is having a big impact – poor teenagers in some areas are significantly more likely to go to university than those in other areas.

I want everyone who is capable of benefiting from college or university to have the chance to do so, just as I did. It is strongly in our national interest that we make full use of the talent that we have available in Britain. We should be making the most of the brightest and the best, just as our competitors are.

More students than ever from poorer backgrounds are going on to degree studies. But the government recognises that there is still more to be done.

The top 10 areas for university participation (2011-12)

  1. Wimbledon – 68%
  2. Harrow East – 67%
  3. Richmond Park – 66%
  4. Cities of London and Westminster – 66%
  5. Ruislip, Northwood and Pinnar – 65%
  6. Enfield, Southgate – 64%
  7. Ealing Central and Acton – 64%
  8. Harrow West – 63%
  9. Sheffield, Hallam  – 63%
  10. Brent North – 63%

The top 10 worst areas for university participation (2011-12)

  1. Nottingham North – 16%
  2. Bristol South – 18%
  3. Leeds Central – 22%
  4. North West Norfolk – 22%
  5. Portsmouth North – 22%
  6. Southampton, Itchen – 22%
  7. Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle – 22%
  8. Plymouth, Moor View – 22%
  9. Great Grimsby – 23%
  10. Kingston upon Hull East – 23%

Kingston upon Hull East 23%

Helen Robinson