Why do we need the Villiers Park Scholars Programme?

SP - image - Hidden Histories course visit King's Chapel Cambridge July 2013

Just 40 children who take free school meals end up at Oxford or Cambridge universities each year. With just over 80,000 children in every school year on free school meals, the chances of one of them taking up a place at Oxbridge is 1 in 2,000. At Westminster School (independent)the ratio is one in every two.’

Poorer pupils are much less likely to study at top universities like Oxford and Cambridge, Daily Express, 4 January 2015

In the UK today, a student’s background still determines their life prospects. Very able young people without a family tradition of higher education are often at a substantial disadvantage when it comes to applying to leading universities. As a result, too much ability is wasted, a tragedy both for the young people themselves and for the economic and social well-being of the nation.

Students from less advantaged backgrounds are far less likely than their peers to aspire to a leading university. The reasons are complex, but a major cause is often lack of peer and family role models, networking opportunities and awareness of what is actually needed to get to the top. Other influencing factors include insufficient aspirations and motivation, low self-esteem, and under-developed key learning skills. Since there is no single explanation as to why potential is not maximised any attempt to solve the problem needs to be personalised to address each individual’s needs. The Scholars Programme does this.

In addition, due to an impending 2020 Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills gap, we have established two programmes (2020 STEM and Tyneside STEM) to encourage students to study subjects which will help overcome this problem:

There’s an enormous skills gap, which is not some sort of theoretical problem – there are well over a million new    engineers needed in the economy by 2020.”

Professor Brian Cox told the Times Higher Education (September 2014), adding that more graduates were needed across all the science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects.

“Ensuring that the most talented people obtain jobs in the professions and elsewhere irrespective of their background is the best way to ensure the UK remains internationally competitive.”

David Willetts MP, Minister for Universities and Science (March 2012)