London Higher submits response to the higher education reform consultation

London Higher and AccessHE are today calling for Government proposals for Minimum Eligibility Requirements (MERs) for higher education to be scrapped as they represent a breach of the Equality Act and the Public Sector Equality Duty, in their response to the Department for Education’s (DfE) consultation on HE reform.

Research from AccessHE, a key division of London Higher, shows that if MERs were to be set at A-Level, this would disproportionately affect London’s Black African, Black Caribbean, Bangladeshi and Pakistani students, who are most likely to hold at least one ‘E’ grade. As the most ethnically diverse region in England, with 40.2% of residents identifying with either the Asian, Black, Mixed or Other ethnic group at the last census, London is set to be hit hard by any moves to impose MERs based on previous grades.

Proposed MERs at GCSE would also lock out almost half (49.4%) of Free School Meal (FSM) eligible learners in outer London who do not achieve a grade 9-4 pass in English and Maths, 40.1% of Black pupils and 86.1% of special educational needs (SEN) pupils.

In its HE reform consultation response, London Higher also:

  • cautions against reducing funding for Foundation Years, which provide important pathways for those from underrepresented backgrounds to progress to higher education, as well as offering an essential pipeline to meet local skills needs; and
  • warns that Student Number Controls (SNCs) would disproportionately impact disadvantaged students and providers who recruit more of these students. These providers are typically those who often undertake the heaviest lifting when it comes to the Government’s social mobility and levelling up agendas and are highly concentrated in London.

Commenting on the consultation, Sally Burtonshaw, Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer at London Higher said:

“No provider or government can precisely identify which individuals will be successful within higher education. The introduction of MERs would do little to reduce the burden to the taxpayer but would prohibit opportunity to the most disadvantaged, despite evidence suggesting that these students can and do benefit from higher education.  

The implementation of MERs would be in breach of the Equality Act and the Public Sector Equality Duty, exerting a disproportionate and unjustifiable impact on several groups of students whose characteristics are protected under equalities legislation. Such a policy would have a significant negative impact on the access and participation agenda, undoing the valuable work that London higher education providers have been doing in recent years to support social mobility in the capital.”

Notes to editors:

  • An embargoed copy of the full response is attached to this email.
  • London Higher has also submitted a response to the DfE consultation on the Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE), sent in a separate email.
  • The London Higher membership represents the full diversity of London’s higher education sector, from small and specialist conservatoires and research institutes to large, multi-faculty universities. A full list of our current members is available here.
  • For further information, quotes or queries, please contact CEO of London Higher, Dr Diana Beech at or London Higher’s Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer Sally Burtonshaw at