I don't see a plan at all, Lampl says

Government's confused and 'negative' social mobility strategy attacked. Rachel Williams writes

May 3, 2012



Credit: Policy Exchange
Degrees of debt: Sir Peter Lampl is calling for tuition fees to be means-tested


The coalition's strategy for increasing social mobility is in "disarray", according to the chairman of education charity the Sutton Trust.

At a lecture on 25 April, Sir Peter Lampl criticised the tripling of the cap on tuition fees, the abolition of the widening-participation scheme Aimhigher and the decision to end the education maintenance allowance.

He said: "There's a lot of talk about social mobility, but I think overall it's been negative since the government's come in...Overall I don't think [its] record is great."

Asked about the government's social mobility strategy, he said: "I think it's in disarray. I don't really know what it is."

He criticised the decision to allow universities to triple fees, instead calling for the charges to be means-tested.

"We've got a situation where kids from council estates are paying the same as kids from top private schools, which I think is ridiculous," Sir Peter told the event, organised by the thinktank Policy Exchange.

"Kids are going to go out into the workplace with £40,000-plus of debt - what's that going to do for them? How does that affect your ability to buy a house? It does, sorry. I know about debt."

The Sutton Trust has established an independent commission to monitor the impact of increased fees on university applications and admissions - particularly on young people from low- and middle-income backgrounds - over the next three years.

"The mood music is it's not going to make a difference," Sir Peter said, before adding: "I don't believe that."

He also raised concerns about the effect on universities of the government's plans to curb tax breaks on charitable donations, saying: "We're going completely the wrong way."

He added: "I think we should actually be being more generous to donors, rather than less generous."

This summer, for the first time the Sutton Trust will hold one of its renowned summer schools in the US, giving talented British 17-year-olds from households with an income of under £40,000 a year the chance to spend time at Yale and Harvard universities. The scheme is in partnership with the Fulbright Commission and the education advice company Pure Potential.

Some 700 students have applied for the 64 places available on the Ivy League scheme. Sir Peter said the number of places would be expanded in the future.

The increased fees of English universities "make the US look reasonable in comparison", he added, especially as means-testing across the Atlantic meant that those from families in the US earning less than the equivalent of £40,000 paid nothing.

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