Access and Our Elite Universities: Birmingham Comes Out Top

University of Birminghamby Richard Lutz.

A survey of Britain’s best universities shows that Birmingham has one of the best profiles for equal access to higher education.

The city’s university is part of the so-called 16 member Russell Group – which includes Oxford and Cambridge – and can theoretically charge £9000 per year to students.

But this maximum figure is linked to how inclusive it is to a wider spectrum of students and those from state schools, many from lower income groups.

The figures published today show that nearly 47 percent of Oxford students come from fee paying schools. But Birmingham has the lowest attraction rate- only 21% come from that sector.

Other universities in the group reveal a big difference from Birmingham.

Nottingham’s intake include 35 percent from private schools. Others are Imperial (37 percent), Cambridge (42 percent) and Bristol (37 percent).

In another profile-for students who use free school meals- Birmingham again has a more open handed approach. Nearly 3 percent of new intake took advantage of free school meals (always a handy benchmark for low income). This is in contrast to both Oxford, Bristol and Cambridge which attracted less than 1 percent for those who used the  meals service while at school.

Birmingham University has yet to announce its proposed fee rate. Both Oxford and Cambridge want to charge the maximum level of £9000. But the government says this is dependent on widening the access to poorer intake- whether through lowering the bar for A levels, offering a free foundation year to develop academic skills or offering scholarships capped at £1000.

The members of the elite Russell Group are: Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, Edinburgh, Nottingham, Newcastle, Leeds, King’s, Manchester, Birmingham and the London based universities of King’s, Imperial and UCL.