xeter University is among other Russell Group universities who have seen a drop in the number of students from poorer backgrounds, despite extensive efforts to bolster numbers.
Exeter University has suffered the biggest fall, at 2.6 percentage points down compared with 2004/05.
According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, less financially disadvantaged students have applied to seven of the 24 universities considered the best in the country.
These include: Oxford (down 2.3), Cambridge (down 2.2), Exeter (down 2.6), Durham (down 1.4), Imperial College (down 2.5), Glasgow (down 1.3) and Queen’s University, Belfast (down 2.5).
Universities minister Jo Johnson said that these figures show a “worrying lack of progression”.
Millions have been invested to encourage poorer students to apply to these Russell Group universities, and allegedly the accessibility for disadvantaged students has improved by the introduction of fees of up to £9,000 a year, ministers and universities say.
The figures recently published cast a new light on these claims, and have triggered Prime Minister David Cameron to advise educational institutions that they need to do more to bridge the gap of social inequality.
A spokesman for Exeter said: “We are deeply committed to widening participation and engaging and inspiring disadvantaged students, whether that means progression to the University of Exeter or higher education more generally.”
“We are actively committed to further increasing the diversity of our student population.”
The University have reassured they are committed to ensuring that high achieving students will be able to study for an undergraduate degree here irrespective of their financial background and have spent “around £8 million on financial support for students in 2015/16.”
Financial support for students will come in the form of partial fee waivers and/or bursaries. This is similar to the maintenance grant provided by Student Finance England.
The Access to Exeter bursary is available to students with a household income below £25,000, which does not have to be paid back. Students with an income below £16,000 will receive £3,500 over the first two years of study. Exeter will automatically assess students’ entitlements through Student Finance England, and will be compensated accordingly.
One second year student, who received a £500 bursary over this academic year, told Exeposé: “Although I was appreciative of the bursary when Exeter told me I was eligible, the sum of money has not touched the sides.
“I still struggle to pay my rent, considering the extortionate prices in this part of the country. It’s all well and good that the University claim to be doing all they can, but when they choose to build a Pret in the forum, it proves the University is really catered for upper class students.”
Exeter also advise students to supplement their grants and loans by working part-time, recommending a maximum of 10-15 hours per week during term-time, to ensure studies do not suffer.
The University has pointed struggling students to the Career Zone, which helps students to find part-time jobs.