As part of the Fair Access Research project, we reviewed the admissions and enrollment data for all applicants to BU between academic years 2010-11 to 2014-15. We wanted to find out if there were differences in application and enrollment for students from different backgrounds. This is because there are significant differences in applications and admissions to higher education in England.
We analysed this data according to key widening participation markers, including:
- Whether or not the applicant disclosed a disability
- Whether or not the applicant came from a low-participation neighbourhood (LPN)
- Whether or not the applicant was a Care Leaver
- We used ACORN data to explore the socio-economic class of applicants.
The analysis highlighted that BU has had a sustained number of applications from students from these widening participation backgrounds over this period. The data did suggest that improvements could be made regarding enrollments from low-participation neighbourhoods and Care Leavers. Students who come form Care backgrounds are some of the most underrepresented students in higher education. According to OFFA, “only 5.6 per cent of care leavers entered higher education [in 2012], compared to 59.6 per cent of young people from the most advantaged areas and 20.4 per cent of young people from the most disadvantaged areas”. More research with sector partners (including virtual headteachers) could help to improve opportunities for Care Leavers and the research team are currently developing research projects in this area.
Another interesting finding identified is that 1257 applicants did not specify on their application form if they had a disability or not. We have recruited two Undergraduate Research Assistants to work with our Fair Access Researchers to explore this further. It is important to find out more about this because disclosing disability early on in the application process could mean that students are able to receive any additional support that could make the transition to university smoother.
Our very own Dr Vanessa Healsip (co-Principal Investigator on the Fair Access Research project) has been invited to sit on the Supporting Professionalism in Admissions (SPA) National Expert Think Tank. She will be coordinating a group of researchers from across the United Kingdom to examine how Additional Admissions Assessments are being used in higher education. Institution use these additional assessments when:
- there are specific professional body/specialist requirement as part of a professional/specialist or employer led programme (i.e. in healthcare or performance-based degree programmes)
- or in general admissions when a programme of study is significantly oversubscribed
This work will shape SPA national guidance to support fairer admissions processes across the higher education sector. We look forward to seeing the outcomes of this exciting research. Well done Vanessa!
For more information about any area of the Fair Access Research project, feel free to email, Alex Wardrop on firstname.lastname@example.org