UNIVERSITIES MINISTER David Willetts has called for “white, working-class boys” to be targeted in the university admissions process, after a decrease in male applications to UK universities.
In an interview with the Independent, the Minister of State for Universities and Science stated that the Office for Fair Access (OFFA), a body that aims to stop the rise in tuition fees from preventing disadvantaged groups from applying to university, “can look at a range of disadvantaged groups – social class and ethnicity, for instance – when it comes to access agreements, so I don’t see why they couldn’t look at white, working-class boys.”
The comments come after English university applications decreased by 15,950 applicants this year, a drop of seven per cent. Last year, 22,000 fewer men applied than in 2010-2011.
Willetts, a graduate of Christ Church, opined that the drop in male applications was “the culmination of a decades-old trend in our education system which seems to make it harder for boys and men to face down the obstacles in the way of learning.”
David Messling, OUSU Vice President for Access and Academic Affairs, told Cherwell, “The bitter irony is that it is Willetts himself who has recklessly damaged university access by deterring future students and presiding over the demise of outreach programmes such as Aim Higher, and now looks to universities to pick up the pieces.”
Professor Les Ebdon, OFFA’s Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, stated, “Universities and colleges make their own decisions about whom they admit. They also choose their own access agreement measures and targets, in line with their own particular mission and challenges. These measures and targets must be agreed with me, as the independent regulator, and I’m happy for them to include ethnicity, social class and gender where appropriate.”
In a statement last week, OFFA called on universities “to step up the long-term work they do reaching out to schools and communities where few progress to higher education.”
Oxford University runs access programs including the UNIQ summer schools, which encourage state school students to apply.
A spokesperson for the University said, “Oxford already offers the most generous no-strings financial support package for the poorest students of any university in the country. Figures for 2012 entry show that a third of all offers went to applicants who come from backgrounds which are a target of Oxford’s widening access activities.”
A UNIQ summer school attendee now at St Hilda’s said, “Willetts should be targeting working-class people in general, not just white men.”
First-year Tim Baxter also commented, “After tripling tuition fees, the ministers’ comments just aren’t enough. Willett do? No, it won’t!”