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White students least likely to apply to HE, details Office for Students report


There has always been a demand from all types of families to go on to Higher Education. A 1962 survey found that ‘more than 80 percent of working-class and middle-class parents wanted university for their children.’

These beliefs, alongside ongoing government ambition, has led to 2 million students and around 50 percent of the cohort in higher education today. This growth is great news for all, however, some groups and places have not benefitted as much as others.



A gap between entry rates

The effect of the pandemic has made the gap between learning resources even more evident, which has had an impact on the ability to learn for students.

It has been found that the gap between the entry rates for white British students who are and are not eligible for free school meals is particularly large, at 25 percentage points.

For “FSM” students in London, however,  the entry rate is now nearly eight percentage points higher than any other region. In London, less than half of the population is whiteExternal link (Opens in a new tab or window), compared with 80 percent across England as a whole.


Low participation does not mean low aspiration

Looking elsewhere, nearly all of England’s lowest-participation neighbourhoods are former industrial towns and cities across the north and midlands or coastal towns.

The researchExternal link (Opens in a new tab or window) suggests that this is not due to low aspirations, it is about expectations – a realistic assessment of the barriers to getting on. The effort of schools does a lot to shift expectations, but as recent focus groupsExternal link (Opens in a new tab or window) have shown, people in left-behind towns feel the decline of local institutions and civic engagement most.

“The goal is to create pathways”

Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation at Office for Students, states that, “universities and colleges can bring (efforts to improve local prosperity) together in their local areas through the breadth of their subject interests, their relationships with businesses and public services, and their bridging of education and skills with research and development.”

The goal, Millward says, is to create pathways through all levels of education.

Office for Students, who spearheaded these findings, fund the Uni Connect programme. Uni Connect funds 29 partnerships of universities, colleges and local agencies across the country, engaging not only with pupils in schools and colleges, but also their parents.

Last year, upon the launch of the Uni Connect Programme, Aspire to HE’s director said:

‘The launch of the Uni Connect Programme is incredibly exciting: with the support from the Government over a longer period, the continued work of Aspire to HE can be transformational for our region, its economy, and crucially for the our local young people’. 

Read about the Uni Connect Programme