The Sutton Trust responds to UCAS’ 2020 end of cycle report.

James Turner, CEO of the Sutton Trust, said:

“It is right to call for strong action to close the equality gap in access to the most selective universities. After decades of hard work, there has been significant progress in increasing the numbers of less affluent pupils at these institutions. But as UCAS point out, the current rate of change is just too slow. We don’t have time to wait hundreds of years as each and every year represents a waste of talent.

“Today’s analysis shows that progress was made in 2020 and further gains are within reach. But these projections may rely on universities continuing to expand the number of places on offer, which is challenging. Whatever the number of places available in higher education in the future, these should go to the most talented students, regardless of background.

“This means recognising that potential is not always captured in grades, so universities need to make offers that reflect students’ individual circumstances. This is particularly crucial in 2021, as lower-income youngsters are more likely to have faced significant disruptions to their learning which will have a knock-on effect on their exam results.

“UCAS is right to highlight the application barriers and the need for broader and deeper advice and information to all. As their polling shows, young people look to their parents for advice, which could unwittingly disadvantage those whose parents didn’t go to university.  Our own programmes, which have reached almost 50,000 young people to date, help students from lower income homes to get advice and support to make the best choices about their futures.

“Today’s data also shows that students are increasingly looking to study near to their own home. This trend could potentially worsen the geographic divide we have seen develop in recent years, and endanger prospects for levelling up. Our own research has found a major reason for this is cost. It’s crucial that all young people have the financial support to move away to university, should that be the best decision for them.”

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