Poor Londoners in richer boroughs ‘most disadvantaged’

A “poverty penalty” is restricting access to higher education for poor Londoners, particularly those living in richer boroughs, a new report says.

November 22, 2011

London’s Calling: Young Londoners, social mobility and access to higher education, released today by the think tank Centre for London, says that the most disadvantaged students are those from poor families living in affluent boroughs such as Richmond and Barnet.

However, it states that in poorer boroughs, less well-off students are likely to perform better, and in some, such as Westminster and Islington, poorer students even outperform their wealthier peers in terms of securing a university place.

Despite this, the report notes that “in general, young people from poorer areas of London are less likely to go to university and far less likely than other young people to go to research-intensive universities”.

Data cited in the report suggest that students in the more deprived areas of the capital are 10 percentage points less likely to gain a place at a Russell Group or 1994 Group university than those from other social backgrounds, with 12.5 per cent of such students gaining a place, compared to 22.5 per cent across London as a whole.

The difference is starkest between students in the borough of Richmond, where 42 per cent of acceptances are to research intensive universities, and Barking and Dagenham, where the corresponding figure is 12 per cent.

Although rising fees and “tough economic times” are cited by the report as possible deterrents for poorer students, the authors stress that affordability is just one of many factors.

“The financial viability and payback matter, but at least as important are the influence of peer, family and school networks and broader cultural factors,” the report says.

Rob Whitehead, co-author of the report said that the analysis posed a “challenge” to assumptions that disadvantaged students always benefited from middle-class education.

“In a significant minority of London’s schools poverty does not reduce young people’s chances of an excellent university education,” he said.

“We can, and must, learn lessons from these schools to ensure that young Londoners of all backgrounds can fulfil their potential.”

sarah.cunnane@tsleducation.com

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