Research shows Traveller pupils less likely to go to university

Gypsy Roma and Traveller pupils university
Mark Stedman/

Pupils from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) backgrounds are ten times less likely to go to university than their classmates, new research shows.

A report compiled by education think-tank LKMco and published by King’s College London says that members of GRT groups face unmatched barriers “at every level”.

Many researchers were told by these pupils that they have faced “remorseless bullying” during their childhood years and felt as if they were unwelcome in education.

According to the report, this concept, combined with a lack of knowledge of university and cultural norms means applications and acceptance to university are a rarity.

Discrimination and bullying

Ellie Mulcahy, lead author of LKMco, said: “The majority of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils experience discrimination and bullying in schools.

“They then fear that this will continue in higher education and will not be treated seriously.”

She suggested that universities need to demonstrate that prejudice and bullying will not be tolerated and that, when it does occur, it is quashed very swiftly and very effectively.

Loic Menzies, Director of LKMco, said that GRT pupils should not be “ignored” and that he believes the report highlights the need for universities to adapt to their unique circumstances.

As well as making it clear that derogatory language is unacceptable, the report recommended that targeted awareness-raising about university should begin at a primary level and also at home.

It added that parents and pupils should identify their GRT status and be reassured that this will not result in any form of discrimination.

Gypsy Roma and Traveller pupils university
Photo. Mark Stedman/

“This is an important and pivotal report that we are pleased to have played a role in bringing about,” said Anne-Marie Canning, Director of Widening Participation at Kings College London.

“Universities must be both open and inclusive for all students. We look forward to working with colleagues in the higher education sector to bring the report recommendations into practice.”

As well as showing that GRT pupils were ten times less likely to go to university, the research found that nine out of ten leave school without five GCSEs. Nationally, 60 per cent of all pupils achieve five A*-C graded GCSEs.

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