A new national target is to be introduced in a bid to increase the number of white working-class males studying at university, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
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’.
Only a handful of institutions set goals for the number of white working-class males, while support for the group with bursaries and scholarships is non-existent. 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.’
Research published last week found too many disadvantaged students generally were failing to get to university and of those that made it and earned a degree, too few were securing top jobs.