University gap between rich and poor narrows, report says

Ben Southwood
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THE GAP between the university attendance of the richest and the poorest narrowed between 2004-5 and 2009-10, a think tank said today, just as the tuition fee cap was raised.

The gap in higher education participation between the best-off and worst-off state school students narrowed from 40 per cent in 2004-5 to 37 per cent in 2009-10, the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) revealed today, with much of the decline after the tuition fee cap was raised to £3,000 in 2006-7.

This could be down to the fact that the reform was more generous to students from more deprived backgrounds and hit more privileged students relatively hard – contrary to popular belief – the IFS tentatively suggested.

The fact that the previous tuition fee cap rise led to a short-term dip, followed by a long-term return to growth, suggests the current dip could also be temporary, the report authors speculate cautiously.

Another report from the IFS showed how top universities were providing more extensive support for poorer students.