Research-led institutions will struggle to raise the numbers of students from deprived areas, the incoming vice-chancellor of the University of Southampton has warned.
Bill Wakeham told The THES : "Can you have the training of the mind in the ability to think subsequently and more vocational courses in one institution? There's a tension there.
"If you are going to deliver 50 per cent (of young people experiencing higher education by 2010), you have got to do it. But how can we make it work in a research university? Maybe it's the wrong policy to widen participation in research universities but that's not the message we're getting from government."
In 1997, the university took over La Sainte Union and relaunched it as the University of Southampton New College, offering vocationally oriented degrees. Professor Wakeham said: "New College takes on the remit of widening participation. This is a bold venture in a research university. Can it be done? Southampton is investigating."