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To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what plans his Department has to encourage higher education institutions to admit students from non-traditional backgrounds; and what consideration he has given to the merits of changing the funding system so that universities do not perceive a financial risk by recruiting such students.
This Government are fully committed to ensuring every young person has a fair chance of attending university. And we are making progress with the proportion of young entrants from lower socio economic groups going to university increasing steadily, reaching almost 30 per cent. in 2007.
But we should and can do more. As part of the New Opportunities White Paper, we announced further measures to ensure every young person from a low income background, who could benefit from going to university, is given the opportunity to do so. This includes a group of 11 research intensive universities working together to look at ways to reach out to talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
It is in no-one's interest for universities to recruit students who cannot benefit from higher education. The widening participation allocation is a contribution towards the additional costs of recruiting and retaining students from non-traditional backgrounds. The amount set aside for the allocation, and the funding method by which each institution's allocation is calculated, are matters for the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).