Consider background in admissions to boost social mobility, Clegg says (UK)

By John Morgan

Private school pupils are three times more likely than their state-educated peers to reach the high-achieving AAB grade threshold at A level that affords entry to “the most selective universities”, Nick Clegg has warned. The deputy prime minister unveiled the figures today in a speech on social mobility delivered at educational charity the Sutton Trust. Mr Clegg also gave firm backing to the use of contextual data in university admissions, aimed at selecting poorer students who have potential but lack top grades. “It may surprise the non-Brits among you to learn that in some quarters, the idea of carefully taking into account the impact of background in assessing university applications has been painted by some as a dangerous piece of revolutionary socialism,” Mr Clegg told his audience. “But far from dumbing down, it’s about increasing opportunity to achieve excellence.”

Mr Clegg revealed statistics aimed at measuring the government’s progress on enhancing social mobility. The figures include the proportion of state and private school pupils achieving AAB grades or better at A level.  The coalition government has used AAB as a key element in its higher education policy, allowing universities unlimited recruitment of students achieving those grades. This has sparked a scramble for AAB students, with some universities offering them high-value scholarships. The government’s report, Opening Doors, Breaking Barriers: A Strategy for Social Mobility, says that 7 per cent of pupils studying for A levels in the maintained sector achieved AAB grades in 2010-11 in “facilitating subjects” – those most favoured by elite universities – compared with 23.1 per cent in private schools. Mr Clegg told ITV’s Daybreak programme that the publication of the wide-ranging figures on social mobility was “lifting a lid, if you like, on an absolute scandal, which is that, in our country more than many other countries, where you are born and certainly what your background is seems to determine your subsequent life”.

Source: Times Higher Education