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Opinion | Students from disadvantaged backgrounds should be offered the same opportunity to go to university

Going to an "outstanding" school should not be a requirement for university entrance.

Courtesy of Epigram

By Amaan Ali, First Year, Philosophy and Politics

For many years disadvantaged students have had to battle more-advantaged students across the country for their place at top universities. With the typical offer for most Russell Group universities requiring multiple A grades, disadvantaged students often couldn’t make the cut, with their more-advantaged counterparts taking a place more easily. So, are top-rated universities right to lower their offers to give these students a chance?

Yes, if done carefully, and in the right way. No one wants to feel cheated out of a place at their chosen university and no one wants to feel like they haven’t earned their place either. So, when lowering offers for students a multitude of evidence should be used as support, rather than the universities using it to fill diversity and inclusion quotas.

Universities should correctly factor in that no two schools are the same and many students’ educational journeys are widely different depending on the family and area they are born in. Achieving an A or even B grade at a failing school in a deprived area should be looked at in more detail than someone who achieved the grade in a more affluent area and elite school.

Affluent A-level pupils least likely to have offers of university place
Students from areas rated ‘most advantaged’ by universities least likely to have an offer compared to disadvantaged pupils, data show

The disadvantaged student in most cases would have faced more adversities and challenges than their more affluent counterpart, so surely it is fair to give those students who may have had a more difficult educational experience a chance to succeed at a top university.

Looking at a student’s potential as well as the grades they achieved in their unique circumstances should be common practice. It gives disadvantaged students a chance to succeed at top educational institutions, which would not only help them achieve their potential, but would make those universities more diverse in opinion, character, and skillset.

But what is the best way for universities to help these students achieve their potential? For some lowering grade requirements by one or two grades is the best step forward. This is done after looking carefully at teacher references and their personal statement to see if the student would do well at the university.

Courtesy of Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

However, there are other ways that disadvantaged students are given opportunities to succeed which ensures other students don’t feel cheated while at the same time making sure disadvantaged students don’t feel unworthy of their place.

The University of Bristol has the Access to Bristol scheme and the foundation year for Arts and Social Sciences/Humanities which works to help those who may have not had a typical educational journey to both fulfil their potential and gain a place at Bristol and other elite universities. I have personally benefitted from being on the Foundation Year for Arts and Social Sciences after having a troubled educational journey and now I am more prepared than ever to start my undergraduate degree this year.

Many of the students on the foundation year have low or no A-level grades yet still, succeed in the supposedly harsh academic environment of the University. It has been reported by teachers of the course that students who complete the foundation year are more likely to achieve a first-class in their degree than those who go to university through the more traditional channels.

Access to Bristol
Access to Bristol provides local students with an unprecedented opportunity to experience life at the University of Bristol.

So, if courses like this prove that disadvantaged students have potential and more often than not circumstances can cause people to slip from achieving that top grade, I don’t see any problem with institutions lowering grade boundaries by a grade or two.

We should also bear in mind that there is only a 2% difference in offers between disadvantaged and advantaged students. This puts holes into the narrative that these students are taking places over people who deserve them more. It is a good thing when students are given a chance to succeed.

While we can hope that the worries that students may not be able to succeed in the harsh educational environment of top universities come from kindness and concern for those students but often it seems those most vocal about these changes seem to be trying to preserve the elitism that they think is dwindling from institutions as they become more attainable for others around the

Featured image: Epigram