The Government has signalled that it may look again at the premium it pays universities to teach working-class students after one vice-chancellor attacked the "staggering" financial gap between old and new institutions.
Bill Rammell, the Higher Education Minister, conceded that the premium may have to be reconsidered after Michael Driscoll - vice-chancellor of Middlesex University and chairman of the new universities' lobby group Campaigning for Mainstream Universities - called for institutions with the best records on widening participation to be better rewarded for their efforts.
Speaking at a Labour conference fringe meeting hosted by CMU, Professor Driscoll said Middlesex had 22,000 students and an annual turnover of Pounds 128 million, which meant that it had £5,830 per student.
But Professor Driscoll said that Cambridge University had much larger resources and fewer students - its £646 million turnover and 16,500 students gave it the equivalent of £39,000 to spend on each student.
"The universities that are delivering the most in terms of widening participation are the least well-funded," Professor Driscoll said.
"There is a staggering gap in funding."
Mr Rammell said the Government was spending £800 million over three years on the widening-participation premium paid to institutions.
But he added: "There is an argument that it [the premium] should be looked at further."
Professor Driscoll also urged the Government to consider creating a new set of league tables that would rank universities according to their record on attracting working-class students.
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