Extra tests used to help access drive

March 21, 2003

Extra tests and supplementary application forms are being used by universities to boost the number of students they take from lower socioeconomic groups, writes Alison Goddard.

The universities of Oxford and Cambridge and University College London today announced that they will use a common admissions test for candidates applying for biomedical courses.

The University of Birmingham is using supplementary application forms to target local state school students and those with no family history of higher education. Candidates are made a lower offer provided they complete additional work. The University of Essex also plans to use additional application forms.

The Conservatives this week said the party would prevent universities from using an applicant's parent's educational background and income as criteria.

The pledge is part of a four-point plan to stop unfair discrimination in university admissions. The party also promised to: never set quotas for university access; abolish the proposed access regulator; and make universities publish admissions criteria.

* Education secretary Charles Clarke told MPs this week that student loans could increase to cut the level of credit-card debt run up by undergraduates.

The view that students had spare cash to blow on alcohol was a "caricature". Most said that living on the student loan was "very tight", Mr Clarke told the Commons' education and skills select committee on Wednesday.

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