Universities that fail to attract students from under-represented groups could be let off the hook by new performance indicators, college heads fear.
Each institution will be given an absolute rating for its ability to attract students from under-represented groups, plus a context statistic to grade its performance against similar institutions.
"An institution that is not doing well at widening participation might do well in its adjusted-sector outcome," said Patricia Ambrose, executive secretary of the Standing Conference of Principals. "There are two key policy areas - widening participation and employability - where it is unacceptable for an institution to say, 'I am all right in my cluster of institutions - widening participation is for the institution down the road'. The government should not let anyone off the hook."
John Thompson, who works on the performance indicators for HEFCE, said:
"One of the reasons for including this performance indicator is to spell out that wherever you are on the access league table, this is an issue of importance. It does not let institutions that select academically off the hook, because they would be compared with other institutions that select academically."