Universities in the United Kingdom must reach out to students from less privileged backgrounds
- By: Irina Haivas
UK universities wanting to increase tuition fees will have to sign “access agreements” with the new Office of Fair Access (OFFA), an independent body aimed at widening the participation in higher education, education secretary Charles Clarke announced this month.
From 2006 universities will be allowed to introduce variable tuition fees of up to £3000 ($4700; a4400). In this context, the OFFA has to ensure equal opportunities for all students, regardless of their background. Clarke told the BBC: “We must tackle the underachievement of the many young people who come from less advantaged backgrounds, who do not realise their educational potential, and do not benefit from higher education.”
The new office will focus on meeting four conditions: raising students' attainment, raising their aspirations, raising their applications, and ensuring fair admission. Universities whose fees add up to more than £1100 will sign the five year access agreement. This agreement asks them to