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Town falls behind in numbers going to university
SWINDON has a below average number of youngsters heading to university compared with the rest of the country.
Figures released yesterday also show a huge discrepancy in numbers heading into higher education in different parts of the town.
The data, published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, shows that in the 2011/12 academic year only 25 per cent of youngsters from North Swindon and 31 per cent from South Swindon attended university.
Although this represents a slight increase from the end of the 1990s, it leaves north and south Swindon ranked 501st and 405th respectively out of 535 constituencies measured.
The data also highlights some huge discrepancies within different areas of the town – Penhill has only six per cent and Parks has 7.8 per cent of youngsters going to university, while Old Town and Lawn ranks highly with 61.5 per cent, and 42.9 per cent reach university in Abbey Meads.
A number of reasons are being given for these low numbers although work is under way to increase the opportunities for youngsters to go to university.
Amanda Burnside, executive director at Swindon College, said: “There are a number of factors.
“I think with Swindon there is a historic factor of many people not seeing university as an option so there is culture of low aspiration. Swindon does not have its own university so I think this impacts on aspirations.
“I don’t think many parents understand the different routes a student can take to get to university.
“There is a traditional belief higher education is only achieved through A-levels but there are also BTECs and apprenticeships.”
Amanda also points out is important to take into account that university is not for everyone.
She said: “At the college we have more than 1,000 people doing apprenticeships.
“On top of that 500 students are completing higher education courses with us through our partnership with Oxford Brookes University and Bath University.”
There are currently several new projects underway to increase the number of sixth form places within the town.
There is a new University Technical College, which will focus on engineering, being built in the town centre and Lydiard Park Academy and Commonweal Schools will both have sixth form departments by next September.
James Matcham, the head of sixth form at Commonweal, said the school aims to get 80 per cent of its pupils into university.
He said: “Young people take their lead from the people around them so if the number of students aspiring to university is low this will have a knock-on effect.
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland said: “Swindon has a history of people going straight into jobs after they leave schoo.l “We need to look at ways of breaking people’s belief that because they may be from a background where higher education is not the norm, they cannot go to university.”