Low blow ignores evidence

December 9, 2010

David Willetts has announced that Aimhigher is to be abolished ("Black spots loom as Aimhigher shuts", 2 December). It isn't clear why this decision has been made, as the minister said he recognises how much there is to learn from Aimhigher and how important it is to build on its achievements.

He then revealed that £150 million would be spent on a new National Scholarship Programme. As this will cost twice the current budget of Aimhigher, the decision to end funding for the programme, it would seem, cannot be explained as part of the coalition government's ongoing austerity measures. Indeed, according to all independent evaluations, Aimhigher represents excellent value for money.

Year on year, evidence for the beneficial impact of the Aimhigher programme, in particular its effects on the life chances of thousands of young learners, has grown incrementally.

The work being undertaken so effectively by the Aimhigher partnerships, which ensures that young people from low-income families can benefit from and succeed in higher education, needs to be viewed without prejudice.

It should be understood not in the context of an ideological divide between this government and the previous one, but as part of the political consensus that the opportunity to access and participate in higher education should be distributed equitably, regardless of socio-economic status.

John Storan, Chair, Forum for Access and Continuing Education.

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