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Aug 16, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

UK education secretary Damian Hinds recently delivered his first major speech on social mobility. A focus point? Calling for increased efforts to help disadvantaged children gain access to top universities. Here is a closer look at what Hinds had to say, as recently reported by The Guardian.

The Important Role of Universities

While speaking at a Resolution Foundation event in London, Hinds noted the critical role of elite universities in leveling the playing fields, pointing to the fact that university applicants from advantaged parts of the UK were a whopping 5.5 times more likely to attend the most selective universities than their disadvantaged peers.

“The latest statistics on destinations of sixth-form and college students show that disadvantaged white pupils are less likely to be studying in higher education the next year than disadvantaged pupils from any other ethnic group,” said Hinds. “And even though disadvantaged black pupils are almost twice as likely to go to a top-third university as white disadvantaged pupils, they are both similarly underrepresented at the most selective universities.

A Push for More

Hinds clarified that while he does not think top institutions willfully discriminate against students from different backgrounds, the end result is still unacceptable.

“Do I think that elite universities are biased against disadvantaged children? No, I don’t think instinctively they are; I think they want people to be able to benefit from what they have to offer,” Hinds explained. “But I think we need to go further, they need to go further. There’s a lot of money being spent on these access programs and so on, and there’s a very legitimate public interest in making sure that absolutely reaches out into the country and to every group it can.”

Hinds also revealed that the government will commission a new big data project which will look at the trajectories of the UK’s young people over the next few years.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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