University of Cumbria pledges to make higher education more accessible


A UNIVERSITY said it is committed to helping students come to study at their institution after it was revealed that the gap between Cumbria’s poorest students and their better-off peers who attend the university s ‘is hollowed out.

Data from the Department of Education shows that of 448 students in Cumbria who received free school meals by the age of 15, 47 (10.5%) were at university in 2019-2020, up from 14, 4% the previous year.

The head of access and participation at the University of Cumbria, Dr Jemma Basham, said she was working to ensure access to higher education for all.

“From its inception, the University of Cumbria has remained committed to helping students come to university and thrive here,” said Dr Basham.

“With a particular focus on groups that have great potential but are often excluded.

“These include those who are the first in their families to access higher education, those from minority ethnic communities and people from socioeconomic disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The vast majority, 98%, of our students have attended public schools, over 50% are mature students and about 20% have a disability.

“We are increasing access to higher education through outreach activities in schools, colleges and the community, offering courses that open exciting career paths for our graduates.

“We are able to support students personally, professionally and financially so that they make the most of their time at the University.

“Our work on access and participation aims to ensure that every student has a fair chance to realize their potential and achieve their career goals. ”

The Sutton Trust said the gap in access to universities across England – which is as large today as it was 14 years ago – is evidence of “stubborn and entrenched inequalities” in the education system. .

Of another 4,711 students in Cumbria not receiving free school meals, 37.4% were studying in tertiary education by the age of 19, which is also down from 37.7% in 2018-19 .

Geoff Barton, Secretary General of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Money is not the complete answer, but it is important nonetheless and there needs to be more government investment in education. in early childhood, schools and colleges; and in the fight against childhood poverty. ”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education said: “Ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to access world-class education remains a top priority, and we expect universities to do everything possible to help. disadvantaged students.

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