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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 The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.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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  • Foreword
  • Executive summary
  • Introduction
  • Summary and conclusions
  • Findings
  • Annex A Summer school funding allocations
  • Annex B Data used for analysis
  • Annex C Aggregated ethnic groups
  • Annex D NS-SEC assignment
  • Annex E Additional analysis of parental occupation
  • Annex F Population denominators
  • Annex G Additional tables and figures


This publication analyses data collected by Aimhigher regional partnerships about Aimhigher summer school beneficiaries over five years. I would like to thank all practitioners working through the various Aimhigher partnerships for their collaboration on this piece of work. I also wish to congratulate all those involved for executing a large programme of intensive intervention in line with the changing and often challenging requirements of HEFCE and the European Social Fund.

Attending an Aimhigher summer school can be a life-changing experience, opening doors to a world of often unimagined opportunity and leading to better informed choices. It is hardly surprising then that so many young people wish to participate in them. Indeed, in the early stages of the programme we noted substantial numbers of beneficiaries from relatively advantaged backgrounds making successful applications to summer schools. As a result of this, our guidance on targeting learner beneficiaries has changed over the lifetime of this programme. The findings in this report show that the limited resources available for this important work are focused on young learners from the target groups.

There is still much to be done. This report demonstrates that boys and, to a lesser extent, White ethnic groups have relatively low participation rates on the programme. In our guidance for the 2008-2010 summer school programme (HEFCE 2008/24) we asked higher education providers and Aimhigher partnerships to support our commitment that factors such as sex and ethnic group should not be barriers when engaging with groups under-represented in higher education.

We are grateful to Aimhigher partnerships and individual higher education providers for their continued support and commitment to the provision of high quality summer school outreach activity. The insights provided by this report serve to underline the importance of their continuing commitment to supply high quality comprehensive data so that the full measure of the success of the programme can be set out.

Dr John Selby
Director (Education and Participation)
Higher Education Funding Council for England

Executive summary


1.   This report provides the first national analysis of Aimhigher summer schools and their participants. The analysis covers the activity in the period 2004 to 2008 (academic years 2003-04 to 2007-081) funded by HEFCE and the European Social Fund. Special attention is paid to the background characteristics of summer school participants in relation to the aim of the programme to target groups under-represented in higher education.

Key points

2.   Between 2003-04 and 2007-08 41,000 young people attended 1,350 summer schools. Averaged over this period, 1.2 per cent of young people participated in the programme. This participation rate has varied each year, reflecting changing levels of funding.

3.   Aimhigher summer schools are typically five or more days in length, with an overnight stay, hosted at a local university. Most participants were in the final two years of compulsory education.

4.   For the purposes of analysis, a set of target groups were defined by measures of parental, area and school background. On most measures the majority of participants were from the target group. Typically the target group had a participation rate in the programme that was at least twice that of the non-target group, and there was some evidence that this ratio was increasing over time.

5.   Both overall and target group participation rates varied by Aimhigher region. These variations were associated with the level of funding received by each region. Most participants attended a local summer school but some travelled substantial distances, especially for specialist summer schools which focus on a single subject.

6.   Participation varied by sex. The participation for girls was persistently twice that of boys. Among broad ethnic group categories, the White ethnic group had the lowest participation rate.

Action required

7.   No action is required.


1.   In this report we use the convention of referencing summer school activity by the academic year it was in. 

Date: 1 March 2009

Ref: 2009/11

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions, Heads of universities in Northern Ireland
Chairs and managers of area Aimhigher partnerships

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Widening access and participation in higher education, including staff in higher and further education institutions, schools and local authorities

Enquiries should be directed to:

Seth Fleet, tel 0117 9317014, e-mail