Some good news on widening participation

“Substantial increases in entry to higher education for disadvantaged young people”

Widening Participation is working according to a new report from HEFCE:

The study, conducted by Dr Mark Corver of HEFCE’s Analytical Services Group, finds that there has been a substantial and sustained increase in the HE participation rate of young people living in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods since the mid-2000s. The participation rate of young people living in the most disadvantaged areas has increased every year since the mid-2000s. Young people from those areas are now 30 per cent more likely to enter HE than they were five years ago. Participation rates have also increased in advantaged neighbourhoods over this period, but less rapidly.

These recent trends mean that more of the additional entrants to HE since the mid-2000s have come from disadvantaged neighbourhoods than advantaged neighbourhoods. This has reduced the participation difference between advantaged and disadvantaged neighbourhoods. The study places these changes in the context of the large differences in entry to HE that are found by where young people live. In the mid-1990s, one in eight young people from the most disadvantaged areas entered HE. That figure has increased to around one in five today but remains far lower than for the most advantaged areas, where well over half of young people now enter higher education.

So, this really does look like good news and a welcome relief to government given other recent reports highlighting the growth in inequality in Britain since 1980. However, there is still a long way to go. And the concern will be that in seeking to make savings universities will reduce spend on both widening participation activities and bursary schemes for those students most in need of additional financial support.