Success for individuals is primarily thought to be down to one’s motivation. Modern-day society has shaped us to believe that no matter our personal situation, our own self-drive and motivation will help us to overcome any obstacle we face. 

Although many successful people come from working-class backgrounds, their journeys were not equal to their privileged counterparts. The working-class face additional variables with strenuous hurdles that they have no choice but to overcome or give in to.   

No matter your circumstances, having a higher education degree will open new doors for someone for their career development. A degree, however, is not completely necessary for someone’s success. Three well-known technology moguls are university ‘dropouts’. Steve Jobs, the chairman of Apple; Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and Mark Zuckerberg, the inventor of Facebook. In the entertainment industry, figures such as Oprah Winfrey and Jamal Edwards have influenced and transformed the way the industry is run. These individuals are prime examples of how you do not have to have a degree to be successful.  Choosing to go to university, however, should be a choice it should not be something that you cannot do because of rules imposed upon you.  

But with certain new mandatory requirements being considered, which will cause barriers for some, is education access really equal amongst everyone?     

Student loan ban 

A recent uproar in the UK media in February 2022 has been due to the news of a governmental proposal that states that pupils who do not achieve at least a Grade 4 (C in the previous grading system) in Mathematics and English Language will not be able to access student loans for university fees [1].  

This reform responds to the Augar review of post-18 education and has also outlined a plan to limit the number of university places available in England. The Department of Education plans to consult on these proposals and further define exemptions to student loans for certain student groups, such as mature students.  

Entrepreneur Theo Paphitis, a well-known poet and Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University, as someone with dyslexia, has expressed his concerns that banning neurodiverse students puts them at a financial disadvantage. Gillian Ashley, the chief executive of the British Dyslexia Association, also voiced concerns stating that excluding the strengths of dyslexic people via alternative forms of assessment by creating a blanket rule is discriminatory to these students [2].     

Disadvantaged households

The number of poorer pupils applying to university has risen, with 28% of 18-year-olds from the most disadvantaged areas applying for university for the academic year of 2022, compared with just under 18% in 2013 [1]. This is due primarily to the option of financing the university fees through Student Finance England, a student loans company (SLC) covering all course fees of £9,250 per year for up to four years. During 2020-2021, SLC loaned £11.39 billion in tuition fee payments to universities and colleges on behalf of students and £10.29 billion in maintenance loans for students living costs [3].  

Of pupils in England, 71% achieve a Grade 4 in GCSE Maths and English, with only 52% achieving a Grade 4 among disadvantaged households [4]. Therefore, almost 50% of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds will face a potential student loan ban. Not only is this fuelling a poverty cycle, demotivating and marginalising pupils from underprivileged backgrounds is driving a larger difference between the quality of life these students will live compared to their counterparts.   

State schooling vs private schooling  

State schools are financed by the government, whereas private schools are primarily funded by the fees paid by students’ parents. An education quality research study conducted by YouGov in 2020 found that adults in Britain believe that the quality of education they received at their secondary school reflected on the type of school they attended.   

As shown in Figure 1, adults who attended a comprehensive (non-selective) state school, only had a 45% report of ‘good’ quality education. In contrast, those who attended a (selective) grammar school had reported a much higher rate at 80%. This is similar to those who said their education at a private school, reflecting a 77% rate of ‘good’ quality education received [5].    

Figure 1 – Survey showing adults rating their secondary school education. Source:  

What implication does the type of school you attend have on access to higher education and, more importantly, your career prospects? Research conducted by the Sutton Trust has found that an unbalanced number of the highest paying jobs were occupied by the privately educated.  For example, 74% of the top judges were educated in private schools [5]. Also, Oxford and Cambridge University accepted 42% and 37.5% of students from private schools. Do these figures indicate a bias and therefore a barrier to those that are disadvantaged in accessing highly selective universities? [6]      

Fair access and development for the underrepresented

Johnny Rich and Rae Tooth, the chairs of the Fair Access Coalition, have stated their take on the news of the Augar report.  

“Today’s announcements will make it harder for young people from underrepresented backgrounds who are already less likely to attend university to do so. Each proposal cuts away at opportunity. Taken together, these proposals will create an insurmountable barrier for some young people from underrepresented backgrounds who have the potential to succeed in higher education. Minimum entry requirements and other blunt policies fail to account for the number of inequalities young people face in our education system before applying to university.”  

Johnny Rich – Co-chair of the Fair Access Coalition

Like the Fair Access Coalition, Say It With Your Chest (SIWYC) believes that “No child’s success should be limited by their socio-economic background.” So, considering the additional barriers that underrepresented young people face, personal development workshops is a service we offer that promotes building the skills and tools needed to flourish in life. Workshops can be tailored to young people’s needs Workshops cover a range of topics such as communication, resilience, the power of choices and more.