Exeter has failed to reach the government benchmark for the proportion of students coming from state schools, which could lead to the University being heavily fined.
Exeter’s proportion of state school pupils in 2012/13 was 69.1 per cent, which was well below the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) benchmark of 76.3 per cent. Even taking into account Exeter’s location, the adjusted benchmark of 74.3 per cent was missed.
Under new government plans, universities who fail to make sufficient progress in the admittance and teaching of disadvantaged pupils will be fined. Also failing to meet the government standards were fellow Russell Group members Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh and Imperial College London.
Institutions that fail either to attract disadvantaged students or have a high drop-out rate after first year could potentially be banned from raising tuition fees in line with inflation as a result of scoring badly in the new benchmarks.
The move is expected to put pressure on Russell Group universities, for which the main membership standard is research quality.
A University of Exeter spokesman said: “Exeter has seen a small increase in the proportion of state school entrants in 2015 but we appreciate there is more we can do to increase the diversity of our student population.
“Critical to this is the work we do to encourage applications to Exeter from students with disadvantaged backgrounds. Locally, we have a partnership with more than 30 local schools and colleges and we are also working regionally and nationally to raise the profile of Exeter with these students.”
Students’ Guild President Laura Jane Tiley told Exeposé: “Widening state school access to higher education remains a significant challenge for the University and is essential to ensure that students from all backgrounds are able to access the opportunities provided at Exeter.”