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Top uni to lower A-level offers for poor pupils by four grades

University of Warwick scheme could give places to 500 pupils a year

Warwick University

One of the top universities in the country is to start giving disadvantaged pupils admission offers up to four grades below their standard A-level offer.

The policy is part of £10 million social mobility programme being launched by the University of Warwick, which could provide places for up to 500 pupils a year. 


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The Warwick Scholars programme will focus on prospective students from disadvantaged backgrounds who live within a 30-mile commute of the university’s main campus near Coventry, on the border with Warwickshire.

It will involve:

  • Admission offers that can be up to four grades below Warwick’s standard A-level offer.
  • A 50 per cent tuition fee discount per year of study and a means-tested enhanced bursary of £2,500, to create a total package worth of up to £19,000 per student over three years of study, or up to £26,000 for four-year degree programmes.
  • A package of ongoing support measures before and during the student’s time at Warwick.

The four-grade reduction for certain pupils is among the biggest grade discount currently available in UK universities, with Bristol University operating a similar scheme.

Warwick said prospective students would be identified by teachers and advisers as “academically able to succeed in gaining a place at Warwick and flourishing as a university student” and must meet “an academic eligibility criterion based on their GCSE grade profile”

It is open to state-school pupils within a 30-mile commute, with applicants who have been in care prioritised. All other applicants will need to meet at least two of the following eligibility criteria:

  • Attending a school with below the national average key stage 4 performance or a school where performance at KS5 falls within the bottom 40 per cent;
  • Live in a neighbourhood where the proportion of pupils going into higher education is low, or an area with high deprivation;
  • Having been in receipt of free school meals within the last six years;
  • First generation in family to attend university (ie, excluding siblings);
  • Experienced significant extenuating circumstances that have had a detrimental effect on academic attainment (eg, a young carer, long-term illness requiring time out of education).

The first Year 12 pupils to participate in the school will be identified this summer, with the first entrants to Warwick in 2020.

Warwick’s vice-chancellor Professor Stuart Croft, said: “This new Warwick model will be a truly transformational social mobility programme, supporting students to get in, get on and give back.

“It will also demonstrate our commitment to maximising the ability of young people from our own local region to directly benefit from being part of one of the world’s top 100 universities.”

The Sutton Trust social mobility charity welcomed the move. Founder Sir Peter Lampl said: “Getting a degree from a top university like Warwick is one of the surest routes to a good job. However young people from lower-income homes are substantially under-represented at these universities. The Sutton Trust has long called for radical change to shift this.  Warwick should be applauded for taking this bold step.

“While many universities practice contextual admissions – where disadvantaged youngsters get a break on grade requirements - it is unusual to see a four-grade reduction."

The issue of contextual offers from elite universities has become a major talking point in recent days. On Saturday, Anthony Wallersteiner, head of the independent Stowe School in Buckinghamshire, complained that private school pupils were edged out by “social engineering”. He also likened criticism of private schools to antisemitic abuse.

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