OFFA comment on HESA widening participation performance indicators

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) has today published its annual performance indicators for widening participation, which show the improved progress that universities and colleges have made in improving fair access for students from under-represented groups.

Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, commented: 

“It is good to see that there is an ongoing trend of improvement across the HESA performance indicators. For example, there have been rises in the rate of participation among students from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds, and state schools. [note]

“Every number in these statistics represents real people’s lives being transformed by higher education. Like the new UCAS statistics on applications, HESA’s figures paint an encouraging picture of the progress that universities and colleges have made towards ensuring that everyone who has the ability to succeed in higher education has equal opportunity to do so, whatever their background.

“But these numbers also show up the stark reality of lingering inequality in access. Universities and colleges need to make further, faster progress if they are to meet the Prime Minister’s target of doubling the rates of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education by 2020 compared to 2009.

“That is why it is very important that, in making any changes to the higher education regulation landscape, the Government ensures that widening participation and fair access remain a clear priority.

“I will shortly be giving universities and colleges guidance on my expectations for their next set of access agreements and I will be pushing them to build further and faster on the progress they have made so far.”


For more information contact Sean Beynon, OFFA Head of Communications, on 0117 931 7022 / 07795 257374 or

Note: HESA’s statistics (Table 1b) show that of all English domiciled, young, full-time, undergraduate entrants in academic year 2014-15:

  • 11.5 per cent were from low-participation neighbourhoods, up from 11.1 per cent in 2013-14 and 11.1 per cent in 2012-13
  • 33.7 per cent were from NS-SEC classes 4-7, up from 33.5 per cent in 2013-14 and 33.3 per cent in 2012-13
  • 89.8 per cent were from state schools, up from 89.6 per cent in 2013-14 and 89.2 per cent in 2012-13.

They also show (Table 2a) that for English domiciled, mature, full-time undergraduate entrants in 2014-15, 12.7 per cent were from low participation neighbourhoods, up from 11.8 per cent in 2013-14 and 11.6 per cent in 2012-13.

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