Poppy Hayward
· News : UK

British universities may drop entry requirements for poorer students

A new report has said that top universities in the UK may be asked to lower their entry requirements by at least two grades when considering applications from students of disadvantaged backgrounds,

The study, by the Sutton Trust, concluded that a change in admissions criteria would lead to 50% more students from poorer backgrounds being able to study at the country's most exclusive universities. It was also revealed that over 80% of offers made by Oxford and Cambridge universities went to students from the two highest socio-econmic classes, with the most offers being made to those who studied at Eton college.

The new entry requirements would make use of what's being described as “contextual admissions”, where private information about an applicant’s social and economic background is considered when an offer is made.

They said:

"While concerns have been expressed that it risks ‘setting students up to fail’ by admitting them with lower grades, our analysis finds little evidence that leading universities that appear to practise greater contextualisation see significantly higher dropout rates, lower degree completion rates, or lower degree class results than universities where the use of contextualisation appears to be lower."

There is currently no standardised entry system at British insitutions and many universities leave decisions up to individual faculties, resulting in a huge variation with within and between universities.

American univerisies such as Harvard and Yale take into account a student's background and make offers accordingly. It is now suggested that leading universities in the UK do the same.

However, Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, claimed that "getting a degree from a top university is one of the surest routes to a good job" without providing any evidence to prove this is the case.

Is the rationale for getting a degree from a 'top university' justified in our new world of distruptive technology and globalisation?