ASCL comment on UCAS application figures

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the UCAS press release stating that a record number of disadvantaged students have applied to start university or college this autumn.
“We are delighted that more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are applying for undergraduate courses. Their sense of confidence and aspiration is testament to the excellent work of their teachers in colleges and sixth forms. This is all-the-more remarkable given that education has been so disrupted over the past two years of the pandemic, and that this cohort will be the first to sit summer exams since 2019.
“However, it needs to be remembered that far fewer disadvantaged young people enter higher education than their more advantaged peers, and that this gap is particularly stark at the most selective universities.
“We recognise the efforts made by universities to improve access to disadvantaged young people through approaches such as contextualised admissions and outreach work. But more can and must be done, not only by universities, but by the government to understand the need for fresh thinking and improved resources and to work with the education sector to improve outcomes for these young people right from the early years onwards.
“It is also important to say that undergraduate courses are not the only option out there and that there are many excellent opportunities for young people through apprenticeship programmes. However, that does not take away from the fact that entry to higher education must be far more socially equitable than is currently the case.”