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Expert challenges egalitarian claims

An expert in education statistics has challenged the Garrick Committee's claim that Scotland has had more success than the rest of the United Kingdom in attracting students from the lower socioeconomic classes, writes Olga Wojtas.

Bob Osborne, professor of applied policy studies at Ulster University, is investigating application and acceptance statistics from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. Revealing interim findings to the CVCP conference, he said: "The Scottish data look different from what you might expect from Garrick. My tentative conclusion is, is Garrick right?" Professor Osborne presented figures that showed Scotland at the bottom of the UK list in terms of higher education applications from 17 to 21-year-olds from manual backgrounds, with less than 26 per cent compared with 27 per cent in England, 28 per cent in Wales and 37 per cent in Northern Ireland.

In terms of acceptances, some 40 per cent of Scottish higher education institutions had between 11 and 15 per cent from manual backgrounds, compared with 26 per cent of English institutions.

Professor Osborne said Garrick had highlighted the role of further education in offering higher education courses. He speculated that disproportionate numbers of further education entrants might come from manual backgrounds, and when they progressed to higher education institutions, they were not caught by the UCAS figures because they were aged over 21.

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