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University Education: Access

Volume 628: debated on Monday 11 September 2017

10. What steps the Government are taking to make university education more accessible to young people from poorer backgrounds. (900748)

Our student finance system is enabling record numbers of disadvantaged young people to benefit from higher education. This year, 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged areas in England were 43% more likely to go into higher education than in 2009-10, and, in addition, through the latest round of access agreements for 2018-19, universities have committed no less than £860 million to continue improving access and success for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

I warmly welcome the fact that there are more poorer children going to university than ever before. Will the Minister join me in welcoming the initiative taken by University College, Oxford—now officially the greatest university in the world—which has reserved places every year for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, to ensure that more of them have access to world-class education?

I certainly welcome that initiative by University College, Oxford, and I am pleased to say that it is not just that disadvantaged students are accessing higher education in general; they are 53% more likely now to be going to our super-selective institutions than in 2009-10, which is an extraordinary turnaround.

Disadvantaged children cannot get to university if they do not get the grades in the first place, so will the Minister ask the schools Minister to meet us in the Furness area who are looking at a major new initiative to get the private-sector local employees involved in closing the generations-long gap in GCSE numeracy and literacy attainment?

I believe my right hon. Friend the schools Minister is confirming that he would be keen to take such a meeting.