Over 80 MPs and business leaders gathered in the House of Commons on Wednesday (26 October 2022) for a Parliamentary gathering to discuss how the Government can address educational inequalities across the country.
Sara Prowse, CEO at Greater Manchester higher education institution, University Academy 92 (UA92), who hosted the event and spoke alongside Matthew Western MP, Shadow Minister for Education, called for a greater focus on educational poverty as part of the Government’s Levelling Up pledge, amid fears that young people from underprivileged backgrounds are at risk of being priced out of higher education.
The event was also attended and supported by Altrincham and Sale MP, Sir Graham Brady and MP for Stretford, Kate Green.
Reports by MillionPlus earlier this month found almost 300,000 students will be gravely impacted by the cost-of-living crisis if financial support is not introduced, while one in six students are currently considering leaving university studies due to their financial situation.
Prowse, whose facility works to support disadvantaged pupils into higher education, says the situation is ‘unsustainable’ and will only grow as the cost of living crisis soars.
Calling on MPs and business leaders to work together to help resolve inequalities, Prowse said,
“Ensuring each child has an equal opportunity to education should be one of our greatest priorities and we need more haste in helping communities left behind as part of the Government’s Levelling Up programme.”
“Qualifications and access still remain key to life chances and fair educational inclusion is a necessity in terms of young people’s aspirations. This progression is made infinitely more difficult if they are priced out due to a lack of financial support and accessibility.”
University Academy 92 (UA92) was co-founded by Lancaster University and the Class of ‘92 in 2019, offering a portfolio of degree and higher education courses across business, sport, media and digital disciplines. It currently serves over 400 students, over 70% of whom are from the Greater Manchester region.
Its financial support for disadvantaged students include its Make it For Real programme, an innovative financial package targeted at young people in communities where financial deprivation is high and where accessing education is perceived as unaffordable or inaccessible. It is specifically aimed at those in receipt of, or eligible for, free school meals and provides recipients with £5,000 worth of support which includes a laptop, unlimited data, lunch every day, travel pass to and from campus and a £150 home voucher.
“15 percent of our students at UA92 were on Free School Meals at school or college, compared to just 8 percent of higher education starters across the UK as a whole. This is a good start and we are proud to be supporting these pupils through our financial initiatives, but these statistics also show how much more we need to do as a nation to ensure all young people can achieve the qualifications that they aspire to, wherever they live and whatever their background.”
“Last year, despite calls from multiple vice-chancellors and higher education bodies, the Government only provided an extra £20m to support students in digital poverty difficulties in England, which did little to reduce the social inequalities and divisions we are seeing. In today’s economic and cost of living crisis, we need much greater support to ensure young people have equal access to education, wherever they live and whatever their background.”