Acting upon low participation of young white men from disadvantaged backgrounds “crucial” – OFFA

Commenting on the publication today of Boys to Men: The underachievement of young men in higher education – and how to start tackling it, a report by the Higher Education Policy Institute, Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said:

“I welcome this important report. Participation rates in higher education of white men from disadvantaged backgrounds remain stubbornly low. As a result, talented people from disadvantaged backgrounds are missing out on the life-changing benefits higher education can bring. This is a shocking, and avoidable, waste of talent which quashes individual opportunity and also has a detrimental impact on our economy and society.

“It is crucial that universities and colleges recognise and act upon this problem. Through their access agreements, around a third of universities already have plans to target men in their widening participation activities. In my latest access agreement guidance to institutions – which was informed by Ministerial guidance – I called on all institutions to consider what steps they can take to tackle this issue. 

“The report is right to point out that the removal of student number controls offers universities an opportunity to address this problem. Higher education admissions is no longer a zero sum game – universities can take the students they believe will excel on their course without having restrictions placed on them.

“Gender and race in higher education are complex issues. We know, for example, that women are significantly under-represented in some courses. There are also large, and unexplained, gaps in outcomes between students from different ethnic groups. Resolving all of these issues will take time and commitment, but I am confident that universities and colleges recognise the critical role they can play in finding solutions.


Notes to editors 

  1. One of the report’s authors, Nick Hillman, is a member of OFFA’s Advisory Group.