OFFA today (Thursday 28 January 2010) warmly welcomed a report showing that the chances of entering higher education for young people living in the most disadvantaged areas have risen by more than 30 per cent over the past five years.
Commenting on the report, ‘Trends in young participation in higher education’, published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Director of Fair Access Sir Martin Harris says:
“I am hugely heartened by this latest analysis from HEFCE – it is evidence of a significant step change in the participation of young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods. What is particularly pleasing is that the sharp rise in participation among disadvantaged youngsters continues after the introduction of variable tuition fees, indicating that they have not proved a barrier to widening participation. This is really good news.
“Over the same period the chances of advantaged young people entering higher education have also risen but by much less. This means the gap between the chances of advantaged and disadvantaged young people entering higher education is finally starting to close. Indeed, most of the additional entrants to higher education since the mid-2000s have come from disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
“It is impossible to prove exactly what has led to this improvement in participation rates but there are clear parallels with increased investment in schools, improved GCSE attainment, and increased university outreach activity.
“However, I would caution against complacency. This report is about participation in higher education as a whole and so does not show participation rates at particular groups of university. HEFCE have shown previously that patterns of participation at highly selective universities can be quite different from the sector as a whole and we will therefore be undertaking further work with HEFCE to assess participation trends by university groups.”
Notes to editors
The HEFCE report, ‘Trends in young participation in higher education: core results for England’, finds that:
- there have been substantial and sustained increases in the chances of young people living in the most disadvantaged areas entering higher education since the mid-2000s
- this finding holds whether neighbourhood disadvantage is defined by participation rates themselves or by measures of parental education, occupation or income
- young people living in the most disadvantaged areas have increased their chances of entering higher education by +30 per cent over the past five years and by +50 per cent over the past 15 years.
- young people from the most advantaged backgrounds have also increased their chances of entering higher education, typically by +5 per cent over the past 5 years and +15 per cent over the past 15 years.
- In the mid-1990s one in eight young people in the most disadvantaged areas entered higher education. This has increased to one in five today – still far lower than the more than one in two of young people from the most advantaged areas entering higher education.
- For the full report, see http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/2010/
- The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) is an independent, non departmental public body established under the Higher Education Act 2004 to help promote and safeguard fair access to higher education. Our main remit is to regulate the charging of higher tuition fees by English universities and colleges offering higher education courses.
- For further information, contact Zita Adamson, Communications Manager at OFFA, on 0117 931 7272 or 0117 931 7171.