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Responses to the new HEPI report on the underachievement of young men in higher education

  • 12 May 2016

Anand Shukla, Chief Executive, Brightside

‘As HEPI’s boys to men report clearly shows, boys are being outperformed by girls in all forms of education – primary, secondary, higher and also in apprenticeships. What’s more, this situation is getting worse. We need urgent action to work with young men who are disengaged from education, and then cut off from opportunities in later life. Brightside welcomes the report’s call for greater outreach activity and resource to be focused on the needs of disadvantaged young men. I congratulate the authors of the report for highlighting the neglected issue of male underperformance in education.’

Professor Anthony Bowne, Principal of Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

‘We welcome HEPI’s report into gender imbalance in higher education. As the report notes, this is a complex issue with multiple causes and multiple possible solutions. But we’re trying to do our bit.

‘Here at Trinity Laban, we’ve chosen to set formal targets for recruiting more male undergraduates. I’m pleased to say that since introducing these targets in 2009/10, we’ve significantly increased the number of male undergraduates. We’re now working hard to sustain these numbers.

‘There are also some areas where we’re actively looking to increase female applicants. We’re hoping that events such as our “Young Women in Jazz” free taster day on Friday 8 July will help with that.’

Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education

‘I welcome this important report. Participation rates in higher education of white men from disadvantaged backgrounds remain stubbornly low. As a result, talented people from disadvantaged backgrounds are missing out on the life-changing benefits higher education can bring. This is a shocking, and avoidable, waste of talent which quashes individual opportunity and also has a detrimental impact on our economy and society.

‘It is crucial that universities and colleges recognise and act upon this problem. Through their access agreements, around a third of universities already have plans to target men in their widening participation activities. In my latest access agreement guidance to institutions – which was informed by Ministerial guidance – I called on all institutions to consider what steps they can take to tackle this issue.

‘The report is right to point out that the removal of student number controls offers universities an opportunity to address this problem. Higher education admissions is no longer a zero sum game – universities can take the students they believe will excel on their course without having restrictions placed on them.

‘Gender and race in higher education are complex issues. We know, for example, that women are significantly under-represented in some courses. There are also large, and unexplained, gaps in outcomes between students from different ethnic groups. Resolving all of these issues will take time and commitment, but I am confident that universities and colleges recognise the critical role they can play in finding solutions.’

Maddalaine Ansell, Chief Executive of University Alliance

‘This is an important piece of work – both men and women should be able to benefit from a university education. There is growing evidence that young men are not fulfilling their potential and this needs to be addressed.

‘The authors are right to focus on the need for universities to adjust the way they teach for students who might learn in different ways. Alliance universities’ experience suggests that this is most likely to happen where there is strong institutional commitment to ensure that all students reach their potential. Setting objectives can help, as can sophisticated use of data analytics to identify whether particular groups underperform on particular elements of a course – and why.

‘As the report suggests, our higher education system needs to be more flexible. In particular, it should be easier for students to move between academic and vocational, and full-time and part-time, provision throughout their lives. This requires genuine parity of esteem across different forms of learning.’

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation

‘Today’s HEPI report confirms that young men are increasingly less likely than young women to go to university. It is important that this gender gap is properly addressed, as it is most pronounced for those from the poorest communities. This means not just looking at university access, but also ensuring that there are degree level apprenticeships on offer too, with universities supporting them.’

Professor Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive of the Higher Education Academy

‘This report underlines the importance of investing in high quality teaching to help improve attainment from under represented groups such as some young men and the HEA is working on behalf of the sector to help institutions respond to this challenge.’

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