The State of Higher Education
On the global stage, the education system in the United Kingdom is lauded as one of the best, with highly regarded prep schools, secondary schools, and universities. LSE, a perfect example of an internationally recognised university with world-class academics and alumni, is just that. Russel Group universities in the UK can be found scattered throughout global university rankings in the majority of degree disciplines, with thousands of international students enrolling in UK-based universities each year. Fantastic! Important metrics to differentiate universities within the UK are employment post-degree, further educational attainment, and a higher average salary than other university graduates. For example, take an Oxbridge degree in Economics; this adds roughly £7600 to a graduate’s starting salary compared with former polytechnic universities according to the Sutton Trust. Questions have been raised whether a starting salary after graduation from a lesser known university in this country proves its worth. The average student leaving a ‘new’ university from a social sciences background earns £15,767, compared to young people leaving education after college on apprenticeships with an average wage of £15,000. Now, this analysis definitely does not prove that non-Russel Group universities provide poor quality education compared with their older institutions in the Russel Group, nor does it suggest that graduates from these universities are better suited to the higher paying graduate roles they find themselves in. What this disparity between earnings could suggest is that recruiters would rather avoid the effort of searching, while students from the NRG (Non Russel Group) do not have their expectations set as highly as RG students. We could associate this difference with a cultural issue, or more to the point, a class issue. Following students from lower income families compared with those from wealthier homes leads to a worrying picture. The government’s higher education watch dog revealed last year that only 1% of the poorest university students attend Oxford or Cambridge, as full bursaries offered at Oxbridge were just 0.88% of total university students in the country, only eligible to students whose family income is £25,000 or less each year (Office of Fair Access). In contrast, 10,827 bursaries were offered to students attending Liverpool John Moores and the University of East London (4.7% of total students), two newer, NRG universities. Student enrolment overall is actually higher at Oxbridge than the latter two universities making these statistics even more daunting. It is important to note that Oxford spend 31% of income on their poorer students, which is higher than the national average of 25.8%, therefore we cannot conclude that Oxbridge are not doing their bit to support students from lower income families, rather, the impact of family income on university may be decided much earlier on in a student’s life.
Tutoring could be the difference
Pupils on free school meals at primary and secondary schools are 50% less likely to attend a Russel Group university than those that do not. Furthermore, students who attended fee paying schools (private schools) are five times more likely to end up at Oxbridge, let alone RG.
Private tutoring is a resource more readily available to the wealthier families in the UK that could lead to better grades, furthering the notion of a correlation between wealth and educational attainment. Private tutoring isn’t cheap, and is virtually unaffordable to students that qualify for a full bursary; its one-to-one teaching method has been proven to be extremely effective in delivering better results. Sir Peter Lampl of the Sutton Trust says “…we support seeking to frontload more spending at an earlier age”, suggesting that tutoring and other educational resources are a decisive factor in a child’s future prospects early on in life. Nick Morrison of the Telegraph has an article discussing the benefits of private tutoring and how it can boost chances of getting ahead against the ‘competition’ (article can be found here: http://goo.gl/mGlkvs). Although Morrison’s article is targeted to readers who can afford such luxuries (discussing how private school is not ‘enough on its own’), it does present a tougher pill to swallow for those looking to close the gap in education as a whole. The most economically advantaged fifth of students are 6.3 times more likely to go to a RG university than the least advantaged; private tuition may well be a big contributor to the education disparity. While families whose children attend private schools are already spending thousands upon thousands every term, hiring a private tutor wouldn’t seem like too big an investment, compared with poorer families incapable of spending on education full stop.
There are plenty of other variables outside of the statistics presented in this article that will have an impact on a child’s prospects in further education and beyond, but to highlight these metrics and narrow down the issue to tutoring, we can at least try to shrink the gap.
If one deciding factor is private tuition, then we can definitely influence this process, which is largely based on affordability, by removing the price tag completely. By offering a service to lower income families free of charge, providing impactful one to one tutoring during school hours, we can improve understanding in core subjects at primary school level and prospects for future attainment for those who may not have the funding.
How we can make an impact
A charitable model would be an effective way in delivering this service to pupils not reaching their potential, with a volunteering tutoring scheme from top university students. By allocating an hour minimum per week on one to one tutoring for said pupils, university students can not only give back to the education system actively, but gain important teaching experience with access to a plethora of resources and training from renowned academics in the field of teaching and psychology of children.
Students4Students is the outcome of this disparity of education in this country. It was founded in early 2015, and since the summer we have launched in two schools in Oxfordshire, assisting pupils to reach their potential with university students from Oxford and Oxford Brookes respectively. We have contact with a school in London and are waiting for training to commence for tutors to start there. We have received great feedback, but in order to truly test our methods, we must continually expand to our goal of nationwide tutoring. Until then, we must tutor as many pupils as possible with the very best university students, contacting as many schools as we can, to provide our service free of charge, while constantly assessing our methods. A charity run by students, for students.
Our model is based on students offering their time once per week for one hour. An opportunity to engage with pupils one-to-one in English or Maths. Are you interested in becoming a part of Students4Students? Then please see the information below on how to sign up. We look forward to hearing from you!