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Free tuition for disadvantaged students in a bid to boost diversity

Following a chain of universities who have taken up initiatives to widen the intake level of students from deprived backgrounds a Russell group university is offering free tuition for disadvantaged A-level students in a bid to boost diversity. This initiative was undertaken across different universities as Vice Chancellors came under increasing pressure from the government to improve access.

Some universities like Birmingham has already dropped its entry requirements by making them offers that are two grades lower than the norm. In spite of this, only a third of the students on the programme achieve their grades. The ‘Access to Birmingham’ scheme is aimed at children from local schools who are from deprived socio-economic backgrounds. They can qualify through a range of factors, such as being eligible for free school meals or being the first in their family to enter higher education. To match up to the prowess of advantaged students, the university has enlisted the services of an online tutor company called MyTutor to provide online one-to-one tutorials with 100 students each being offered 10 hours of tutoring for the A-level exams as part of the pilot project. On the basis of its success, other Russell Group universities are likely to follow suit.

On the similar front, Bristol University, came up with a new programme called, “Bristol Scholars”, in which, high potential pupils with grades as low as C could be offered courses which requires a minimum of A-level. A group of universities in Yorkshire like those in Leeds and Huddersfield have taken up the cause to tutor the school children.

Recently, the University College, Oxford also followed suit by increasing the number of places by 10 per cent in an effort to widen access to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. On this basis, they have also planned a bridging programme to improve the student’s grasping powers.

As per the new amendment in the Higher Education and Research Bill, there is a statutory duty on universities to publish attainment data of students which would be further categorized based on gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background.

The Universities Minister Jo Johnson hopes to double the proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education and to increase the number of BME students by 20 percent by 2020.