State school pupils set to be favoured by Bristol University
BRISTOL University is among several educational establishments to bring in a system to weight the applications process in favour of students from poorer backgrounds.
It has been suggested that the points system being implemented by the city university would mean that children from poorer families might not have to achieve such high grades in their A-levels and GCSEs as those from more privileged backgrounds.
According to a national newspaper similar policies are being used by Edinburgh, Leeds and Birmingham universities to give students from more deprived families a better chance of winning a place on a course.
The government has been calling for universities to do more to attract a wider mix of students and has backed the use of information about applicants' backgrounds – referred to as contextual data – although ministers have not explained how it should be used.
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According to the report in the Sunday Telegraph many institutions said they would consider such data when choosing between applicants on a case-by-case basis.
It said that Bristol was bringing in a points system across all of its courses giving pupils from poor schools "an automatic weighting to their total academic score".
Critics of the process reportedly said the points systems amounted to "generic discrimination" and felt that tutors would be unable to select students they felt would benefit most from their course.
It has been suggested that universities are operating a points system where attending a low- performing school, coming from a neighbourhood where few people attend university and being in care weighted scores in applicants' favour.
Bristol was reported to have used such a scoring system for a third of courses this year and all applicants will be scored for the 2012/13 round of admissions.
Angela Milln, Bristol University's director of student recruitment, access and admissions, said: "We are considered in our use of contextual data and only include it within a selection process where we have strong and robust research evidence to indicate that the approach is appropriate."