Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Denham's impressive pitch on access

I've spent the last couple of days helping the Higher education Funding Council with their conference blog. Today's speech from the universities secretary John Denham was impressive not for the various stories that have excited the media, but rather for the careful argument he made for widening participation and access policies. He rightly positioned them as being as much about fulfilling the ambitions of the children of paraprofessionals as about those of the most disadvantaged; by doing so, and identifying with their aspirations - apparently 50% across all classes now aspire to university for their children - he is selling a difficult policy the way it should be sold. And by urging that access funds - such as Aim Higher - should focus much more on young people aged 14 and under, he is recognising that it is then that aspirations are fixed (and, perhaps, adding extra money to grants was not the best use that could be made of it). Despite affecting disagreement, his Tory shadow, David Willetts said largely the same thing this morning, and as the government is giving itself more time to reach its 50% participation rate, there should be more consensus on this policy across the parties.

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