HKF CEO ADDRESSES DIVERSITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION IN GUARDIAN LIVE CHAT
The Helena Kennedy Foundation's Chief Executive, Wes Streeting, has warned that the higher education system has much further to go in ensuring that it is accessible to students from a range of diverse backgrounds in a Guardian live chat on improving access and diversity in higher education.
The debate, on the Guardian's online higher education network, brought together a range of practitioners to debate the remaining barriers to access and the steps the HE sector needs to take to improve its diversity.
Wes will also be taking part in another Guardian live debate on Friday 22nd July from 1pm - 4pm on student finance communication.
"The facts speak for themselves: It remains the case that just one in five young people from the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods enter higher education, compared to the one in two from the most advantaged neighbourhoods. Just 16% of pupils who are eligible for free school meals progress to university compared to the 96% of those who are taught in independent schools.
And, perhaps most depressing of all, a recent survey of 2,300 young people, conducted by the Prince's Trust, revealed that those from deprived backgrounds were three times more likely to say that they would "end up on benefits".
"Communicating the new tuition fees structure is vital in giving students a clear and well-informed decision on higher education: We do need to ensure that the facts about the new system are not clouded by the political debate. That's why Martin Lewis of the Money Saving Expert website and I have launched an independent task force on student finance communications. Backed by universities, NUS, UCAS and others, we're trying to bring together as many different players as possible to put across the key facts without sugar coating, prejudice or bias.
"For example, telling students that monthly graduate repayments under the new system will be less than under the current system is important. So is the fact that monthly repayments are the same whether you're on a course that charges £6k or £9k.
"Martin already has 20 key facts about the new system up on his website and in the coming months we'll be doing a lot more to get the message out through different channels."
"Wealth inequality makes a huge difference: If you're the sort of student whose parents can subsidise your living costs, you have more time to develop key employability skills through extra curricular activities, spend a summer working for free (!) as an unpaid intern in London and, of course, time to concentrate on stacking up your assignments instead of stacking shelves in Tesco. HEIs need to make students aware of access to money (bursaries and grants), networks and the know how (for example, access to work placements in the cultural and arts industries) that so many others are able to take for granted."