Universities awarding ‘first in the family’ status may exacerbate inequalities

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One report suggests that universities that use “first position in the family” when offering students run the risk of accelerating “existing education inequalities”.

According to a paper published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEAP) think tank, the “flawed” indicator is self-proclaimed and unverified.

Students who are the first in their families to attend a higher education institution are nearly two-thirds of young graduates in England, the research found.

is that use of the term “first generation” does not accurately capture the socio-economic status of individuals while often used as a “proxy for low income”.

The term also applies to people who come from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, who attend higher education at higher rates, whose ethnicity is white British.

We should avoid focusing too much on one unreliable indicator and too little on other measures

The report warned that using first position in the family to make relevant offers to potential students for university admission “risks further widening inequalities” between white British and black and ethnic minority groups.

It says: “It is reasonable to believe that the use of the term first generation in relation to relevant propositions threatens to intensify existing education inequalities.

“Focusing on the first students in the family in isolation is unlikely to make things much better.”

The report said the use of parental education in relevant admissions is constrained by the fact that it is self-reported and difficult to “independently verify”.

“If first-generation status is used to make relevant propositions such as ‘high-stakes’ decisions, it would provide a clear incentive for young people to misreport,” the report said.

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