Participation premium may be in for a boost

September 30, 2005

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.

Conference quotes

'We reformed universities' funding so they had the resources to keep up with the world's best. And, yes, it was tough'

Tony Blair on the decision to introduce top-up fees'

The lesson is that at a time when China and India are producing 4 million graduates a year, we in Britain - a small country - cannot now afford to neglect the potential of any single child or to write off the talents of any single young person'

Gordon Brown in his conference speech

'Am I an "urban intellectual" who the Labour Party doesn't want anymore? It looks like it'

Dave Hill, professor of education policy at Northampton University, who announced he was thinking of leaving the Labour Party

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