I went to an excellent presentation the other day organised by the Education and Employers Taskforce. In it Steven Jones of the University of Manchester presented the research that he had been doing on what students write in their UCAS personal statements.
I’ll leave the presentation to speak for itself below, but in summary what Steven found was that the space that is offered to potential students to distinguish themselves beyond the raw grades that are provided actually serves the purpose of sending out a strong message about the social background of the individual and allowing young people to display the capital that their upbringing gives them access to (social capitial, financial capital, cultural capital). In effect this results in the UCAS statement exacerbating existing social inequalities.
In addition Steven’s presentation suggested that those young people from more privaledged backgrounds are also able to draw in more advice and guidance in the drafting of their personal statement and that this continues to increase inequalities.
The materials from the presentation are all on the Education and Employers Taskforce website. A film of Steven’s presentation from YouTube follows.