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Reform think tank response to HESA widening participation statistics

Commenting on statistics published this morning by HESA showing little change in participation rates for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, Dr Luke Heselwood, Reform Senior Researcher and author of the report ‘Gaining Access: Increasing the participation of disadvantaged students at elite universities’, said:

“If Ministers want to do better, they should do three things: find a better measure for assessing disadvantage, evaluate universities’ spending on widening participation and campaign to encourage applications from disadvantaged students.”

Research undertaken by Reform in 2018 found considerable discomfort from universities with the current measure used to assess disadvantage, which uses POLAR3 data. The think tank is reiterating it’s call for a new measure for assessing universities progress in improving access, which takes into account key indicators not currently considered, such as Free School Meal status.

Reform is again calling for universities to publish detailed breakdowns of their widening participation spending to the Office for Students, to help understand which programmes are effective and to improve value for money.

The think tank has previously called for a national campaign similar to Better Make Room in the USA, which targets disadvantaged pupils via text and Snap Chat to encourage applications from those with high enough grades.

In November 2018, Reform published the report “Gaining Access: Increasing the participation of disadvantaged students at elite universities” which is authored by Dr Luke Heselwood, Senior Researcher at Reform.

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