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Bright Birmingham teenagers are ‘missing out on university’, research shows

Bright Birmingham teenagers are ‘missing out on university’, research shows

🕔06.Oct 2014

Young people in parts of Birmingham and the West Midlands are less likely to attend university than in almost any other part of the country even though they have the academic qualifications to access degree courses, new research has shown.

Academic ‘cold spots’ where few school leavers obtain degrees exist in most of Birmingham with the exception of Edgbaston, Selly Oak, Moseley and Sutton Coldfield where university attendance is above average.

Parts of the Black Country are also at the bottom of the university participation league according to a report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

While Birmingham has more universities than most cities, the proportion of local students taking degree courses is far lower than expected in relation to their GCSE attainment, according to HEFCE.

This means that Birmingham’s success in pushing up GCSE pass rates in recent years has not been matched by an influx into universities.

The problem is particularly bad in the inner city wards, south-west Birmingham including Kings Heath and Northfield and east Birmingham.

The research demonstrates a clear link between unemployment and the proportion of the population holding higher education qualifications.

In Birmingham, where unemployment is high, only 26 per cent of the population have high level qualifications against a UK average of 34.2 per cent, while 15 per cent have no qualifications compared to a national average of 10 per cent.

Tackling the skills deficit is a major priority for the city council and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP.

The research challenges claims that young people are likely to leave their home area once they have obtained a degree. Almost three-quarters of students return to the West Midlands to find work after completing their degree. Just over half of students studying at West Midlands universities stayed in the region after finishing their course.

HEFCE is urging higher education providers to work closely with local enterprise partnerships to address gaps in provision.

Professor Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE Chief Executive, said: “The higher education picture across England’s cities is varied and complex.

“In Leeds and Birmingham, where there is a relatively high number of higher education institutions, the proportion of young people progressing to higher education is lower than expected in relation to their GCSE attainment.”

Prof Atkins added: “As the Government seeks to ensure that economic recovery and growth is more evenly shared across different localities and industry sectors, universities and colleges continue to play a critical role in supplying a highly educated and skilled workforce, providing opportunities for individuals while meeting the needs of the economy and society.

“The data shows us that the issues associated with HE cold spots can often be complex.  Higher education providers, working collaboratively with their local enterprise partnerships, will be able to use this powerful new toolkit to establish a detailed picture of HE in their localities, enabling them to identify any gaps in provision, participation and the supply of graduates.

“Universities and colleges play a key role as economic and social ‘anchors’ in their local and wider communities. Working with local partners in this way to reach a joint understanding of the issues that affect them collectively, they can make an important contribution to the ongoing development of Strategic Economic Plans, and also, of course, to decisions about where and when to invest different forms of funding.”

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