Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Will UK Universities Respond to Ebdon’s Requests for Supporting the Needy?

image courtesy: /bit.ly/y89wKr

Education should stop welcoming discrepancies as official data showed that the number of affluent students studying in universities and colleges in the United Kingdom have exceeded the number belonging to deprived areas by 3 to 1. Apart from presenting this fact, the ombudsman for England’s higher education, Les Ebdon has also urged the colleges and universities to gear up their efforts to allure more disadvantaged students so that they can also fulfil their dreams of leading bright and secured futures.

Routes to Higher Education are shortening, says Ebdon

According to Ebdon, the drastic downfall in the part-time enrolments that has been recently reported is no less a tragedy. The participation rates for both part-timers and matured students have been declining which in turn resulted in an unexpected fall in the enrolment figures. In fact, this has brought fears in the lives of numerous career aspirants that the alternative routes to pursue higher education are gradually shrinking with the passage of time.

Ebdon’s comments were published last week in Office for Fair Access where the report was made on student’s annual assessments for participating in higher education. The reports further showed big gaps in recruitment ranging from the inferior end of the income scale irrespective of the universities’ bumper year. Ebdon in respect to the monitoring said that things are no doubt progressing. However, it does not show any sign that a long way is still to go.

He continued that although the participation rate from the inferior participation groups has increased by 80%, there are chances that one might end up enrolling in a selective university if he/she comes from the 20% of the most advantaged group than from the 20% of the most disadvantaged. So, it’s quite evident that much work needs to be done to improve situations.

Outreaching is the key factor to Success

Ebdon said that it’s quite unfair to issue only one application for disadvantaged students who are 18, and three applications to issue for the same in the advantaged areas. He therefore emphasised on the idea of outreaching which can be rather a key factor to success, and this should be done by spreading the message that a university is an ideal platform for everyone to succeed. Hence, the disadvantaged should understand that there are no barriers in their way to success.

However, Ebdon also feels that the outreach efforts in order to get realised through matured students and part-timers will surely encounter strong challenges. He said that what universities must recognise now is that the increasing demand for individuals possessing high-level skills will result in the requirement of more and more places in higher education. Probably, this may be a crucial reason why the enrolment figures for part-timers are falling since this is no doubt a profitable way to produce individuals with high level skills.

Ebdon’s OFFA reports

OFFA (Office for Fair Access) has stood responsible for approving all access agreements by universities that sets objectives for widening participation. According to OFFA, although universities spend more on outreach activities, their higher fee income proportion has suffered a downfall. In response, Ebdon’s watchdog want to not only make smarter investments but the universities should also set challenging targets for recruiting individuals. 

Government must Necessitate Funding for Admitting more University Students

Ebdon has moreover commented on the long-held initiative of admitting 50% of the school-quitters into universities. He said that the government can increase the enrolment figures of the students going to universities, provided if it raises fund for the expansion. His comments were made just because he felt that the appetite for higher education was increasing which would also be sustained in the long-run. The report was produced in association with England’s Higher Education Funding Council.

There were about 34,000 students (1 out of 10 of the 2012-13 entry) who qualified for the means-based scholarship. It was aimed at people belonging to poorer families. However, the scheme’s popularity alongside the total number of eligible candidates has restricted several institutions from accessing funds any further. Although some managed to meet the demand by topping up funds, there were around fifty eight institutions that limited their criteria below the national criteria of £25,000 household income. In a few cases, some restricted below £16,000, which meant that disadvantaged students failed to qualify for the scholarship fund. 

UK Universities – the Ultimate Saviour for the Disadvantaged

In this respect, the UK universities have now brought an extensive range of online courses for students and working professionals who can enrol from any corner of the world, irrespective of their educational and family backgrounds. Moreover, distance learning has proved to be an outstanding alternative for pursuing higher education as it gives students the opportunity to flexibly earn their degrees by making affordable interest-free payments. Furthermore, distance learners enjoy the same privileges and academic support just like what full-timers enjoy. 

So, Ebdon’s wishes will probably come true since the UK universities now attract over 10,000 international students, both advantaged and disadvantaged from far and wide every month to enrol in the distance learning courses. In other words, learning distantly in UK can act as the only saviour for the disadvantaged students.