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Every pupil should rise to fulfil their potential

Coverage of the interview I gave to TES (23 November) has wrongly implied that I am opposed to schools encouraging pupils to apply to highly selective universities. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I am deeply concerned at the participation gap that exists at our most selective universities, a gap highlighted by the Office for Fair Access' own research. That's why I'm asking universities to do more work to raise awareness, aspirations and attainment levels among students in schools and communities with low participation in higher education. Evidence to date suggests that outreach work such as summer schools and mentoring can encourage under-represented students to apply successfully to highly selective universities and I am therefore asking for a bigger push in this area.

The point I was making in my interview was that pupils are individuals who should be encouraged to consider all options when considering what to do when they leave school, including applying to highly selective universities. The most appropriate pathway will differ according to the individual. For some, it may be a course at a highly selective university; for others, it may be a different university, or it may be something else completely, such as an apprenticeship. Good advice and information are vital if pupils are to make informed choices, and universities have a role to play in making sure that pupils receive this information.

If a pupil has the potential to succeed at a highly selective university, then schools should be doing everything in their power to make sure that he or she has high aspirations, and achieves the grades and receives the support needed to apply successfully to a highly selective university if they choose to do so.

Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education.

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