On Thursday HESA’s released the latest data on widening participation to higher education. The purpose of the indicators is to provide an objective measure of how the UK higher education (HE) sector is performing. This year’s data reveals progress has slowed overall, and there continues to be a variation in performance between providers:
- Overall, 11.4% of young entrants (under 21) were from low participation neighbourhoods, up from 10% in 2010-11.
- Ninety per cent of UK university students (2016/17) were educated at state schools, a rise of only 0.1% on last year.
- The proportion of entrants from state schools has increased only marginally over the past four years. The proportion of state school educated students differs significantly by each university, ranging from 44% to 100%.
- Oxford had the smallest proportion of state school entrants at 57.7%, followed by Cambridge at 62.6%. However, both have increased their intake of state school students.
The new education secretary, Damian Hinds, welcomed the figures: “I am encouraged to see a record proportion of university entrants now coming from state schools and disadvantaged areas. Many universities are already doing brilliant work to ensure more young people go on to higher education, and I would encourage this best practice to be shared across the sector. Of course there is still more to do. That is why we have introduced major reforms through the Higher Education and Research Act, including the transparency duty which will require all universities to publish data broken down by gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background, shining a light on institutions that need to do more to widen access.”
However, critics said progress was too slow and efforts to widen participation amounted to little more than “tinkering around the edges”.
Future publications by HESA this year will look at student retention and graduate employment.