The impact of interventions for widening access to higher educationDate: 29.04.2020
While an increasing number of young people have progressed to higher education in recent years, the gap in access between poorer and more affluent students remains stark: students from the most affluent areas are more than twice as likely to enter higher education than those in the most deprived areas. For the most selective universities, they are six times more likely.
These large gaps persist despite significant investment from the higher education sector in activities to widen access over the last decade.
This detailed report analyses 92 studies that provide evidence of the impact of activities designed to boost the attendance of disadvantaged or underrepresented students. It sets out the gaps in the existing evidence base and outlines recommendations for future research.
Key findings from the new research include:
- The higher education sector has significantly increased activities to boost attendance of the most disadvantaged students, spending around £250m on programmes a year.
- Many activities are positively associated with disadvantaged students’ understanding of and attitudes towards higher education, as well as their life aspirations.
- However, there is an urgent need to go beyond student perceptions and establish the impact of these activities on enrolment numbers. Most research to date on widening access has failed to determine this.
- The government and HE sector should do more to monitor student progress and build a greater understanding of the impact of activities on disadvantaged school age pupils, as well as on groups such as mature students, carers, care leavers, some ethnic minority students and vocational students.