Universities under pressure to widen access

England’s universities are coming under significant pressure to do much more to widen access to higher education for our most disadvantaged students. Chris Parr reports

Just over a year ago, in April 2018, the Office for Students (OfS) became the official regulator for higher education institutions in England. Much of what it does – the registering of providers so that they can charge higher tuition fees, for example, or the publication of guidance on campus free speech – is only of fringe importance to schools.

However, the arrival of the OfS has brought a renewed focus in higher education on the importance of recruiting students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

One of the new regulator’s first acts was to place conditions on registration for several universities it believes are falling short on access. If unaddressed, these conditions can result in deregistration or a fine. Among those institutions were the universities of both Oxford and Cambridge.

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