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Universities ‘should do more to attract disadvantaged students’

More should be done by universities in the UK to encourage more people from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend.

This is the opinion of Les Ebdon, the access ombudsman for higher education in England, who advised universities that data reveals there is a disproportionate number of applicants from affluent backgrounds compared to those from deprived areas.

“Only one application [to higher education is] from 18-year-olds in disadvantaged areas for roughly every three applications from 18-year-olds in advantaged areas,” The Guardian reported him as saying.

According to the news provider, Mr Ebdon stated that universities should be “an option for everyone that has the ability to succeed, and that there shouldn’t be barriers in the way for the disadvantaged”.

Despite this, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Office for Fair Access has revealed universities increased their spending to encourage more participation in higher education by 5% between 2011 and 2012.

During this time, universities spent £386.5 million on bursaries and scholarships to assist disadvantaged students to receive help or full payment of their tuition fees. This is an increase from £378.1 million in 2010/11.

Chief Executive of the HEFCE Sir Alan Langlands added that attracting students lower income backgrounds to higher education is a “vital aspect of widening participation”, saying they contribute a lot to the economy by having a university degree.

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