Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Monday, 20 July 2009 13:09 UK

Move to widen student talent pool

University entrance
Universities will be urged to open their doors wider

Universities in England must give more preference to talented pupils from less well-off families, a report for the prime minister is expected to say.

Former minister Alan Milburn will also call for no-fee degrees for students living at home.

His report is expected to question the value of previous efforts to widen participation in higher education.

It will aim to challenge the social exclusivity of professions such as medicine, law and journalism.

Socially exclusive

The report will not only focus on the poorest part of the population - but will suggest that many middle-income families are also missing out.

HAVE YOUR SAY
We need vocational degrees, coupled with part-time work placements done whilst studying, which help people to pay for their own fees
Brendan Fernandes, Brighton

Recruiting more students from a wider range of social backgrounds into university has been seen as a key to social mobility.

But the report suggests that much more needs to be done - with fears that the university system can reinforce disadvantage rather than reduce it.

It will call for leading universities to take into account the social background of pupils - particularly when pupils from low-achieving schools are competing against independent school pupils with a tradition of very high grades.

There will also be calls for universities to become more involved in schools, such as by having representatives on boards of governors.

Higher education should be more widely available in further education education colleges - making it more accessible to mature students wanting to study locally.

This autumn the process of reviewing tuition fees will begin - and the report will suggest a trade-off in which universities can charge higher fees in exchange for greater support for poorer students.

There will also be questions about other informal barriers to professions, such as internships and work experience schemes which can work to the advantage of articulate, well-connected families.



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