Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission “right to highlight” wide participation gaps in higher education – OFFA

Commenting today on the publication of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’s annual report, Professor Les Ebdon, the Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said:

“The Commission is right to highlight the wide gap in participation between the most and least advantaged at those universities with the highest entrance requirements. This is a significant concern for OFFA – one of our key strategic aims is to make faster progress in improving access to highly selective institutions by people from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

“It is important to recognise that there has been a step-change in the numbers of students from disadvantaged backgrounds entering these universities in recent years. Figures released today by UCAS show that 18 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds are 39 per cent more likely to enter higher tariff institutions now than they were in 2011.

“Despite this welcome progress, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are still woefully under-represented at universities with the highest entrance requirements. These universities have an important role to play in helping to meet the Prime Minister’s ambitious goal to double the rates of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education.

“Universities are increasing their efforts and ambition, including by investing significantly in long-term outreach work to raise attainment and aspirations [note 1]. I am pleased that the Commission recognises the importance of this outreach work, and agree that it is crucial for universities to continue to work collaboratively to make further progress. I am confident that universities recognise the scale of the task, and will continue to do all I can to challenge and support them to make faster, sustained progress.”


For further information contact Zita Adamson (OFFA Head of Communications) or Sean Beynon (OFFA Press and Communications Adviser) on 0117 931 7171, or email

Notes to editors

  1. For example:
  • Pembroke College at the University of Oxford works closely with schools and colleges in London and the north west of England to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds with lectures and classes delivered by Pembroke academics, mentoring from the College’s students and a week-long residential summer school.
  • The University of Cambridge works with the Sutton Trust and Villiers Park to provide summer schools and online and face-to-face mentoring.
  • Students into Schools is a long term outreach programme at Newcastle University where undergraduate students have the opportunity to work as tutors in schools. The programme serves a dual purpose in that it raises aspirations and attainment in young learners, while improving the employability skills of the students engaged in the work.
  • The University of Manchester is working with sixth form students to help them make the transition into higher education. Participants in the Manchester Access Programme complete an academic assignment to help them develop the skills they will need at university, and also attend a conference to find out more about university life.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *