The Mail on Saturday can report that there will soon be a national target to boost the numbers of working-class white men studying at university.
Research shows that only 12.6 per cent of them go on to higher education by the age of 19 – the lowest of all demographic groups – and they are less likely to get good grades at school than their equally disadvantaged ethnic minority peers.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has asked regulators at the Office for Students to renegotiate universities’ targets to address ‘regional inequalities and prior attainment in schools’.
While a few institutions do set goals to increase the white working class male population, support for this group via scholarships and bursaries is virtually nonexistent. Some academics say concerns about the fate of white working-class teenagers have been ignored or dismissed as ‘Right-wing thinking’.
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has asked regulators at the Office for Students to renegotiate universities’ targets to address ‘regional inequalities and prior attainment in schools’
Welcoming the new target, Oxford University chemistry professor Peter Edwards said: ‘White working-class males in Britain have traded places with ethnic minorities and are now the group most likely to fail educationally and to struggle in life.
‘It is quite clear to me that simply belonging to the racial group white working-class males is seen as inherent privilege – irrespective of any disadvantage that accompanies their situation.’
Earlier this year, the House of Commons Education Select Committee produced a report that found that white children on free school meals – especially boys – persistently underperform academically compared with other ethnic groups.
The committee’s chairman, Tory MP Robert Halfon, described the lack of action as ‘a scandal’ but applauded the OfS directive as a first step forward.
‘It has been a scandal that white children from disadvantaged backgrounds have the lowest participation of any other ethnic group and that people have shut down debate on it,’ he said.
‘Our report made a number of recommendations, particularly to encourage more degree apprenticeships where students are paid to study and go on to highly paid jobs. I really welcome this news and hope this is the beginning of a new push to ensure that white working-class boys and girls can achieve in education.’
A recent study found that many students who are disadvantaged were failing to make it to university. And, of the few who made it to graduate with a degree in hand, not enough were landing top positions.