Education Secretary Damian Hinds

Yesterday, Thursday 1 February, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) published figures on the number of people from underrepresented groups participating in higher education. 

The statistics measure how providers are performing in boosting access to higher education from disadvantaged groups. The figures show that 90 per cent of young university entrants in 2016/17 came from state schools, the highest level recorded. They also show that 77 per cent of young university entrants to Russell Group institutions in England were from state schools.

Commenting on HESA’s widening participation performance indicators:

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

These statistics show a continued improvement in the proportions of young people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods in higher education. There are more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in higher education now than ever before – thanks to sustained improvements in the last decade.

However, these figures show us that the rate of change is too incremental. We need a step-change in progress to ensure that everyone with the talent to benefit from higher education has the opportunity to do so, whatever their background. At the moment, talent is being wasted on an industrial scale – with people that could excel in higher education still being held back by where they come from.

Universities and colleges have done well to widen access to higher education, but now it is time for them – under the regulation of the new Office for Students – to seize the opportunity to make changes which will benefit a whole generation.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

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.

See the statistics on widening participation of underrepresented groups here.


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