OfS raises “Access Gap” concerns, names LSE

The Office for Students (OfS) has slammed several UK universities including Imperial College London, Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, University College London and LSE for having the widest “access gap” between wealthier and poorer students. The OfS, which acts as the regulator and competition authority for the higher education sector in England, warned that this gap should be halved in five years. The LSE has rejected this statement, that it actively recruits exceptional students from all parts of society. 

According to the OfS report, despite an increase in the total student base, the number of poorer students in England’s most selective universities has hardly changed. The report suggests that leading schools such as Imperial College and LSE should provide another 6,000 spots for disadvantaged students within the next 5 years. The OfS can levy fines for universities who do not comply with its policies. 

Mike Buchanan, who heads the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, said that “Care is needed in starting actively to discriminate against individual young people on the basis of the class they were born into” and argued for selective universities to increase availability for private school graduates. Buchanan declared that the 6,000 spots suggested by the OfS should be made up by limiting the number of international students at selective universities stating, “universities should not to increase international student numbers if it denied places to UK students”.

LSE responded to the Beaver’s request for comment in regards to their policy to comply with the OfS report, saying, “LSE is committed to recruiting exceptional students from all parts of society. As part of this commitment, the School continues to commit significant funds on access, bursaries and outreach, with the aim of attracting and supporting a wide range of qualified students from under-represented backgrounds at LSE, as well enabling students to access higher education more generally through our widening participation outreach programme. Details can be found in the School’s Access and Participation Plan. LSE has been recognised by the Independent think tank, REFORM, for our progress on increasing admissions for students from the lowest participation neighbourhoods based on the POLAR3 dataset.”

In regards to the use of contextual information, LSE’s policy for applicants from the UK is to use this information “to gain a more complete picture of the educational and individual context of an applicant. This allows our admissions selectors to assess achievement and potential whilst recognising the challenges an applicant may have faced in their educational or individual circumstances.”

Finally, LSE rejected Buchanan’s argument that international students are displacing domestic students since LSE recruitment quotas are set before the application season so that a balanced number of domestic and international students may study at the school. 


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