University access cash 'wasted'

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The Independent Online

Nearly £400m of public money designed to get students from poor backgrounds into Britain's best universities has been wasted, a committee of MPs will say today.

A report for the cross-party Public Accounts Committee lambasts the Government for "slow" and "poor" progress in using universities as an engine of social mobility. It claims that £392m of taxpayers' money, allocated over the past five years to improve the proportion of young people from working-class backgrounds going to leading universities, has been ineffective.

That money has correlated with only a 2 per cent increase in the number of students from the poorest backgrounds enrolling in higher education.

Edward Leigh, the Tory chairman of the committee, said: "It is dismaying that the Government seems to have little idea what the universities have been doing with this money."

An aide to John Denham, the Universities and Skills Secretary, said: "It's disappointing that they've reached conclusions based on figures from 2006."