UK’s poorest students set to benefit most from university redesign

Young people from the poorest parts of the UK are primed to benefit most as universities scramble to offer safe education as they emerge from the COVID-19 lockdown.

In a UK survey by the University of Leicester, 68% of students and their parents who live in a household with an income between £15,000 and £25,000 said they would change their minds about deferring for a year if they were offered a cheaper option to study for a high quality degree* - like the 99-year-old institution’s modern education approach, Ignite.

This is compared with an average 56% of incoming first year university students and their parents across the UK.

That number rises to 69% in Manchester, ranked the second most deprived local authority in England, and 63% in the north-west, the region in which Manchester sits, along with the most deprived local authority, according to rank, Blackpool, according to the English Indices of Deprivation.

President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Nishan Canagarajah said: “Ignite will break down barriers to education. “We are offering the liberation of education for children who have fought through tough upbringings to forge their own path and create a better start for the next generation.

“The new mix of agility and quality advances our ambition to become a truly inclusive university, giving students options to tailor their educational experience to meet their personal needs and maximise access to higher education.”

Ignite is a strategic, long-term move for the university that will differ from traditional blended learning programmes because students will be able to switch between on-campus and online modes of learning at any point to help them manage their education alongside their other commitments and responsibilities. They will also be able to switch between home and rented university accommodation on a nightly, weekly, termly or annual basis, to fit their circumstances. This will cause a significant cost reduction, as well as allowing them to create ‘live and learn bubbles’ and benefit from peer mentoring.

News comes as students begin the countdown to A-level results day on 13 August and universities ramp up for clearing.

University of Leicester Students’ Union President Mia Nembhard, 22, from south London, who was the first in her family to graduate, said: “I didn’t get the results I wanted at A level, but the clearing admissions team at Leicester were really nice.

“Leicester had always been on my shortlist because it was doing well in the league tables and I’d heard good things about the student experience, so it was an easy decision to make to accept an offer here.”

The survey of 2,006 UK students and their parents also found that:

  • 45% would have their concerns about going to university this year, which are causing them to consider a year’s deferral, alleviated if they had the ability to turn costs like room rent on and off to use them only when needed, rising to 64% in Leeds – another deprived area of England.
  • 43% said they wanted to stay in control of their life and won't let COVID-19 control them, rising to 60% in Northern Ireland and Belfast.
  • 53% would choose a dual delivery degree over a traditional classroom approach, rising to 61% in Scotland.
  • 33% feel starting university against a backdrop of COVID-19 is impacting their mood and mental health, rising to 47% in Sheffield.

The launch of Ignite, in September, builds on 30 years of pioneering distance learning programmes by the university, which has 40,000 distance-learning alumni across the globe.

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