Bristol suffers in row fallout

February 20, 2004

The row over Bristol University's decision to offer lower entrance grades to disadvantaged state-school pupils has been followed by a drop in the number of applications, according to figures out this week.

Independent school heads led a high-profile campaign last summer against the university's policy and applications have since fallen 5 per cent, figures released last week by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show.

The data relate to applications made by the January 15 deadline. The university is now analysing them by school type.

A Bristol spokesman said: "It would be curious if the boycott by some independent schools - shortlived and inappropriate though it was - had had no effect, but we do not have the statistics to do anything more than speculate."

Martin Stephen, chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference and high master of Manchester Grammar School, said: "All the HMC can ask of universities is that theyare transparent. There is no boycott. In the final analysis, it is the consumer who makes the choice."

Last summer, the HMC hit the headlines when it suggested independent school pupils should not be encouraged to apply to Bristol until the university could demonstrate "its procedures are fully documented, fair, objective, transparent and consistently applied".

Other universities, including Nottingham, Durham, Edinburgh and the London School of Economics, were also criticised by the HMC.

Nottingham has since seen applications fall by 6 per cent, according to Ucas. A spokesman said the fall was not a cause for concern given that the university was still in the top three in terms of applicants per place.

Applications were also down at Durham but up at Edinburgh and the LSE.

Overall, Derby University had the biggest fall, with an 11 per cent drop in applications made through Ucas. A spokeswoman said applications were being made later each year.

London Metropolitan University saw a 10 per cent drop. Roderick Floud, its vice-chancellor, said: "Our experience is that these statistics do not mean much. We have so many late applications and direct applications from overseas students that are not made through Ucas."

· Publication of the review of admissions to higher education will be delayed for legal reasons, The Times Higher has learnt.

The review, headed by Steven Schwartz, vice-chancellor of Brunel University, aims to establish which measures universities should adopt when assessing the merit of applicants and their achievement and potential for different types of courses.

The report was due on March 2 but it has been delayed for another month, after the steering group decided it needed to take advice on whether its recommendations on affirmative action were legally sound.



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