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Friday, 31 October 2014

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Concerns raised over university fee increase

A TRUST which promotes social mobility through education agrees with a report that says universities should focus more on outreach.

The Sutton Trust welcomed the report, University Challenge: How Higher Education can Advance Social Mobility, by Alan Milburn, the government’s child poverty and social mobility adviser.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “Alan Milburn is absolutely right to urge a greater focus on outreach activities by universities and to stress the importance of schools closing the attainment gap.

“We welcome his call on leading universities to ‘close the Sutton Trust gap’ to ensure that the 3,000 students a year who have the grades but don’t get a place at a leading university are more likely to apply and study at those universities.

“University access funds could be better spent on outreach and summer schools where the impact is greatest. Getting able students to apply to university in the first place – especially our leading universities – is the biggest challenge and Alan Milburn is right to say so. We believed that the government was wrong to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance, and consideration should be given to new ways of funding an alternative.”

Sir Peter said the trust shares Mr Milburn’s concern about the impact of this year’s fee increase on student numbers. He said the trust has set up the Independent Commission on Fees, chaired by Will Hutton, to look at this issue. Sir Peter believes that ministers should consider means-testing fees as a way of reducing the potential debt burden on less privileged students.

The Sutton Trust is working with Durham University to develop a toolkit that brings together the evidence of what approaches work best to improve social mobility in higher education.

The trust has funded a number of outreach activities in this area, including its flagship summer school programme, which next year will reach 1,500 students across nine leading universities.

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