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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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Our most recent work monitors trends in participation for 14 cohorts of young people aged 18 in the academic years from 1998-99 to 2011-12.

Our work focuses on the participation of young people because people are most likely to participate in HE when they are young, and because it is easier to relate their likelihood of going into HE to where they grew up. 

The measure by which we report trends in HE participation is the young participation rate. This is simply the proportion of young people from an area who progress into HE by the age of 19.

Latest trends - 2013

In October 2013 we published a report on the latest trends in young participation. This report builds on earlier reports to include cohorts up to and including those who entered HE aged 18 in the academic year 2011-12, or aged 19 in the academic year 2012-13.

This means it covers young people who entered HE aged 18 the year before the new funding and finance arrangements for HE came into effect. So it provides a baseline from which to measure participation rates in the new funding environment. 

In outline the research indicates the following trends: 

Participation has increased - Participation in HE among young people in England increased substantially between the late 1990s and the year before the introduction of higher tuition fees. The proportion of young people in England going into study has increased by 26 per cent since this time.  

Most of the increase has occurred since the mid-2000s. From this point, participation rates increased by six percentage points – a proportional increase of 19 per cent.  

Trend in young participation rate for England

Significant differences in participation remain – in particular between: 

  • young people from advantaged and disadvantaged groups
  • young people living in different parts of the country 
  • young men and women. 

Some of these differences have reduced slightly but others have become larger.  

Trends in young participation rates by sex

The geography of participation varies greatly – in particular:  

  • There is a widening gap between young people in London who progress to HE and the rest of the country. Latest estimates suggest that London’s young people are, on average, 36 per cent more likely to progress in HE compared to young people from elsewhere in the country.
  • The North East is the region of the country where young people are least likely to go into HE.
  • There is an east-west split within London, with young people from the western half of the capital being the most likely in the country to go into HE, while in recent years the eastern half of London has had the greatest increases in HE participation among young people in the country.
  • Many areas where young people are least likely to go into HE can be found along the coast, in former industrial towns in the Midlands and the North, and in rural areas of the South West and East of England. 

Trends in young participation rate by region

Earlier research 

The latest research outlined above builds on the following earlier reports:

Page last updated 20 January 2015

See also