Children in poorest areas have little chance of winning a place

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The Independent Online

Young people in some of Britain's poorest districts have no chance of going to university, an official from the funding authority said yesterday.

Young people in some of Britain's poorest districts have no chance of going to university, an official from the funding authority said yesterday.

Staff from the quango that distributes money to universities compared young people's family income with their prospects of a university place. The comparison was based on analysis of the average income of the neighbourhoods where pupils' families live.

Bahram Bekhradnia, director of policy at the Higher Education Funding Council, said: "There are some areas of the country where you have virtually no chance of going to university or college. Just 12 per cent from the poorest quartile of the population find their way to higher education. The smaller access issue is which university students go to, whether they get to the best university they can and whether the admissions process is fair. A far bigger issue is why so few students are still coming forward from poor backgrounds."

Mr Bekhradnia suggested there was a limit to how much higher education could do about encouraging moreworking-class students. The big breakthrough would be made with measures to improve schools, he said. "There needs to be a sea-change in the schools and in society's attitudes," he added.

Research has allowed the funding council to pinpoint areas from which scarcely any young people go to university. In cities, districts with a high proportion of undergraduates are often cheek-by-jowl with those where few go on to higher education.

The council's figures show the top postcodes for participation include Edgbaston, in Birmingham (B15), where 80 per cent of young people become students. In parts of nearby King's Heath (B14) the figure is less than 10 per cent. In London more than 80 per cent go to college from SE19, which includes Upper Norwood, compared with under 10 per cent from parts of Woolwich (SE18).

David Triesman, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said: "We should not be rapping a few universities over the knuckles for doing badly on access. Instead we should be looking at why so many people decide university is not for them."

Baroness Blackstone, minister of Higher Education, said the Government was developing foundation degrees as a way of providing vocational options, particularly for mature students in their 20s, to increase the number of under-30s entering higher education.

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