More research needed

October 30, 2008

I noticed a report of a presentation by Miriam David at a seminar of the Helena Kennedy Foundation ("MPs question credibility of 14-19 diplomas", 9 October). At this she reported the results of her study that established that "non-traditional students from less well-off backgrounds were more likely to study at post-1992 institutions".

This would be of significance only if such institutions offered a poorer educational experience and subsequent financial rewards than other parts of the UK's higher education system.

The implications for the Government's widening-participation agenda, equality objectives and indeed its whole higher education strategy could clearly be profound.

Among other issues, it has implications for the system of fragmented institutional bursaries, an issue recently addressed, and would have important social implications for any relaxation of the cap on student fees, which, if they are significantly lower at post-1992 institutions in a "competitive market", would be reflected in further differentiation in the quality of provision.

This is therefore an issue that requires significant further debate and investigation.

Stephen Dearden, Manchester Metropolitan University.

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