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Higher Education: White State-Educated Children

Volume 721: debated on Wednesday 26 October 2022

5. If she will take steps with the Secretary of State for Education to help ensure that the proportion of white state school educated students obtaining a place in higher education is raised to the same proportion as mixed heritage, black, Asian and Chinese students. (901842)

Ensuring that everyone can access world-class education remains a priority. In 2021, we saw record higher education progression rates for disadvantaged white students who had free school meals. The Government are investing £3.8 billion more in high-quality education, skills and training provision, leading to good outcomes for young people and getting them the skills needed for economic growth, whichever good-quality route they choose.

On the Government’s own figures, the percentage of state school pupils getting a higher education place by ethnicity is Chinese 72%, Asian 55%, black 49%, mixed heritage 41% and white 33%. Are the Government concerned about those widening disparities, and if so, what are they going to do to level up university entry?

As a meritocrat, I believe not in positive discrimination, but in a society where people are judged on their character and ability. Access to HE should be based on a student’s attainment and their ability to succeed, rather than their background. As I said, 2021 saw a record high number of white students who receive free school meals progressing on to higher education, but since the publication of the report, “The forgotten: how White working-class pupils have been let down, and how to change it”, we have tasked the Office for Students with refreshing its entire access and participation work and with looking into that.