It's not a class issue

March 23, 2007

The benefits of students providing information about their parents' backgrounds to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service when applying to higher education have been lost in accusations of social engineering.

The value of providing university admissions tutors with information on whether a candidate's parents attended university is clear from the findings of the Higher Education Careers Services Unit Futuretrack 2005 survey. This demonstrated that such knowledge can provide deeper insight into students' motivations to go on to higher education and enable admissions tutors to select the best and brightest candidates.

For example, of those students whose parents had not attended university, 85 per cent cited encouragement by careers advisers as a reason to attend, compared with just 15 per cent of applicants whose parents went to university. Other key drivers for students with non-graduate parents included encouragement from teachers; they wanted to realise their potential; they believed it would get them a better job; and it was part of their long-term career plans.

This highlights that, rather than penalising middle-class students, the additional information will enable university admissions tutors to look beyond simplistic class labels and see that those applying to their institutions from non-traditional backgrounds have generally made a more carefully considered decision based on sound advice and solid careers aspirations.

This move by Ucas will encourage widening participation and should be applauded.

Mike Hill
Chief executive
Higher Education Careers Services Unit

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