UUK response to HEFCE report on widening participation

UUK said today that it was “good news” that there have been increases in entry to higher education for disadvantaged young people, but cautioned that more can be done to improve the situation.

Responding to the Higher Education Funding Council's (HEFCE) report 'Trends in young participation in higher education', Professor Steve Smith, President of Universities UK, said: "This report highlights the recent progress we've made in terms of widening participation which is good news. It highlights the value young people place on higher education and how important universities and education are to social mobility.

"It's difficult to pinpoint any individual factors that have contributed to this increase in participation from disadvantaged backgrounds, but improvements at GCSE level and universities' outreach activities - including the work of organisations such as Aimhigher - have clearly had a positive impact. Universities UK's report to the National Council for Educational Excellence (NCEE) illustrated the extent to which universities, schools and colleges are working together to raise aspirations and academic attainment among young people. The shared aim is to increase participation in higher education.

"We cannot be complacent, however. Although the situation has improved, there is still more that can be done. It remains the case that young people from disadvantaged areas have a one in five chance of progressing to higher education compared to one in two for those from the most advantaged neighbourhoods. We must also look in more detail at which universities young people from the most disadvantaged areas are applying to. Universities and schools still have a lot of work to do to try and encourage such applicants to apply to the range of universities. It's essential that an applicant selects a course that best suits their abilities, needs, and circumstances.

"Universities along with current students will continue to work with young people in schools and colleges to help raise aspirations and awareness of higher education. This is particularly important for those from backgrounds without any experience of higher education.

"The current cap placed on student recruitment in England also risks hampering the sector's work in this area. This and the proposed funding cuts will pose significant difficulties for maintaining progress in this area."

1. The full report, 'Trends in young participation in higher education: core results for England' (HEFCE 2010/03), will be available to download at: www.hefce.ac.uk/

2. Universities UK is the major representative body and membership organisation for the higher education sector. It represents the UK's universities and some higher education colleges. Its 133 members are the executive heads of these institutions. Universities UK works closely with policy makers and key education stakeholders to advance the interests of universities and to spread good practice throughout the higher education sector. Founded in 1918 and formerly known as the Committee for Vice-Chancellors and Principals (CVCP), Universities UK celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2008.

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