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Education Minister says white, working class boys should be target for university recruitment

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The Education Minister, David Willetts, has recently stated that white working class boys should be targeted for university recruitment in same way as ethnic minorities.

After witnessing a vast decline in applications from men for courses, Willets argues that white working class teenage males should be placed in the same disadvantaged category as ethnic minorities and should be targeted to be recruited for universities.   

Figures show that the number of working class white males who entered university in 2011 was 13% down on the previous year. Only 30% of male school leavers applied to university this autumn, 2012 UCAS figures have recorded. Furthermore, there is a discernible difference in the applications between women and men, with male applicants far lower than females.

Willets proposition is that if universities fail to deliver agreements to recruiting white working class males, they can be refused permission to charge fees of higher than £6,000 a year. Noting the underperformance of males which he views as "a culmination of a decades-old trend in our education system", part of his proposals is to encourage parents to view further education as a possibility and to remove any concerns of paying fees immediately as "no eligible student has to pay upfront fees."

Furthermore, Willets proposes to increase funding for teaching in universities to £9.1 billion in 2014, up from £8 billion in 2013. Income from higher fees will pay for this, enabling teaching standards to rise and cutting the size of classes.

Critics have argued that this may discriminate against middle-class applications to gain favour to the university watchdog, the Office for Fair Access, but Willets argues that the watchdog look at disadvantaged groups of society and so white working class boys should be recruited.

Critics have also argued that universities cannot solve this problem alone, with Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, arguing that "the root causes of the under-representation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds are under-achievement at school and poor advice on the best choices of A-level subjects and university degree course."

Mr. Willets plans to propose the inclusion of white working-class males as a target for recruitment in university access agreements in an imminent meeting with Professor Les Ebdon, the director of the Office For Fair Access (OFFA).

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