Top university rails at social engineering "dishonesty"

Top university admits it struggles to admit disadvantaged students without resorting to social engineering
University said it struggled to admit more deprived students because few make the gradeInstitution – where Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met – said time to 'stop demonising higher education for poor progression rates’.

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UPDATED:

02:05 GMT, 27 November 2012

A leading university has admitted it is struggling to admit more disadvantaged students without resorting to ‘utterly dishonest’ social engineering.

St Andrews said it faced a ‘considerable and continuing challenge’ to widen access because so few young people from the most deprived areas achieve basic university entry grades.

Challenge: St Andrews University said it is struggling to admit more disadvantaged students without 'utterly dishonest' social engineering

Challenge: St Andrews University said it is struggling to admit more disadvantaged students without 'utterly dishonest' social engineering

The elite institution – where the Duke
and Duchess of Cambridge met as undergraduates – ruled out playing a
‘political game’ by lowering entry grades as this would set students up
for future failure.

It said that it was ‘time to stop demonising higher education for poor progression rates’.

Elite: Stephen Magee said the university, where Prince William graduated in 2005, was setting students up for failure if they lowered entrance grades

Elite: Stephen Magee said the university, where Prince William graduated in 2005, was setting students up for failure if they lowered entrance grades

He said a ‘more resilient culture of attainment, beginning in the nursery years’ was needed.

Stephen Magee, vice principal with responsibility for admissions at St Andrews, will today demand a boost in classroom standards.

He said: ‘We have a choice – we can continue to beat up our leading universities for failing to admit more kids from our most deprived areas, or we can start, without shame or blame, to ask if perhaps there is something going wrong throughout the whole equation.’

His extraordinary intervention will reignite the row over social engineering in English universities.

Critics argue that many poor students are missing out on the race for top university places because state schools are failing to equip them with the qualifications they need. St Andrews has been repeatedly criticised for admitting just 14 students from the most deprived Scottish areas in 2011.

In publishing a new target to increase its annual intake of students from these areas by 45 per cent, St Andrews said it faced a ‘stark choice’.

It could ‘lower its academic standards significantly or live with continuing criticism for slow but steady progress to recruit more students from the most deprived areas’.