The Schwartz Report of 2004 has made universities much more alert to ensuring that all candidates receive fair offers

In a letter to the Times, 29/03/13, HMC's General Secretay, Dr William Richardson writes that The Schwartz Report of 2004 has made universities much more alert to ensuring that all candidates receive fair offers.

Sir, Your report of research from Durham University (Mar 27) covering the years 1996-2006 includes the finding that university applicants from state schools then needed the equivalent of one extra grade to have the same chance of an offer as those from an independent school. This picture is now significantly out of date. The Schwartz Report of 2004 has made universities much more alert to ensuring that all candidates receive fair offers. Some applicants from especially disadvantaged backgrounds now receive “discounted offers” in relation to the normal entry requirement.

Independent schools are broadly content that current arrangements are working satisfactorily, with almost all of their students getting a broadly fair offer based on their circumstances. Most recently, Alan Milburn, the coalition’s social mobility Tsar (an odd oxymoron), has taken this point further. He recommends that, because the backgrounds of pupils in all types of school can be hugely varied, universities should be very cautious when considering the generic criterion of “school type” attended (state or private) when making admission decisions.

Mr Milburn’s point should render redundant the use of state school targets still found in some of the “access agreements” that universities are required to lodge with Professor Les Ebdon at the Office for Fair Access.

Dr William Richardson 
General Secretary, the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference

Click here to read the letter © The Times.