Bristol makes a mockery of widening university access

Commenting on news that around half the schools taking part in Bristol University’s Bristol Scholars scheme (which is supposed to help disadvantaged students into higher education) are private schools, and that a third of places offered by the 2017 scheme were offered to private school pupils, Bristol South MP Karin Smyth said:

“When Bristol Scholars was launched it was widely praised and as south Bristol’s MP I considered it an encouraging step forward for my constituents. But if a university scheme aimed at improving access to higher education for talented young people who wouldn’t otherwise get these opportunities is being used by private fee-paying schools, then something is wrong.

“By offering private school pupils a third of places on an initiative that’s meant to widen university access for disadvantaged students, Bristol University is making a mockery of its own scheme. I am very disappointed by these figures.

“Data from UCAS show that Bristol South sends fewer of its young people to university than any other UK constituency. Bristol South is home to some of the most deprived wards in the country.

“Whilst university is not right for everyone, I know from my regular visits to schools in my constituency that there are huge numbers of students with the potential to do well in higher education. This scheme was trumpeted at helping break down some of the barriers that prevent them doing so. Sadly it seems to have offered false hope.

“I have written to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Bristol, expressing my dismay and disappointment, asking for an explanation of what steps the university is taking to ensure this and other similar programmes will truly benefit the people who most need them. I have also asked him how many students from Bristol South have been offered a place in the 2017 scheme and to confirm to me that the published criteria for this scheme are being upheld.”