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Poor prospects

Undergraduates from low-income homes are more likely to drop out of university, writes Alison Goddard.

Students who come from the poorest households, as measured by income, parental education and employment plus a clutch of other criteria, have lower retention rates than those from the richest households, according to a study published today by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a respected think tank. It says that most but not all of the difference is due to the lower entry grades gained by such students. However those from poorer backgrounds are still more prone to dropping out even if they gain the same entry grades as their more affluent peers, which suggests that universities might usefully do more to support such entrants.

The Daily Telegraph quotes Claire Crawford, the report’s author, as saying: "Universities may wish to focus on improving the progression and performance of students from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as widening access." The Daily Mail says that "universities which discriminate in favour of poorer applicants could be unfairly penalising bright middle-class youngsters."

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