The report 'Aimhigher summer schools - participation and progression to higher education' (HEFCE 2010/32) is published by HEFCE today.
Although funding for the Aimhigher scheme is due to end in 2011, summer schools are likely to remain an important and popular widening participation activity deployed by higher education institutions under new arrangements.
The research also confirms earlier work (note 1) showing that Aimhigher summer schools successfully target young learners from groups under-represented in HE. Typically the most disadvantaged 20 per cent of young people are two to four times more likely to attend a summer school than the most advantaged 20 per cent of young people.
Learners taking part in Aimhigher summer schools tend to have done well academically in previous years. But the new research shows that, even when they are compared to pupils with similar levels of prior attainment who do not go on an Aimhigher summer school, they remain more likely to achieve better GCSE grades and to progress to post-16 study and HE.
Although the report cannot prove that summer schools alone increase progression to HE (note 2), the findings are encouraging, suggesting that summer schools help those who attend them to see HE as a real option for them. But the research also shows that although they are more likely to progress to HE generally, they are no more likely than those who did not go to summer school to progress to the third of universities with the highest entry requirements ('higher-tariff universities').
Director for Education and Participation at HEFCE, Heather Fry, said:
'This research confirms the valuable contribution that Aimhigher summer schools have made to raising the aspirations of bright young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter higher education. But there is still much to do. Summer school participants with attainment strong enough to allow acceptance to higher-tariff universities appear more likely than similarly qualified non-participants to be accepted into lower- and medium-tariff universities.
'The reasons for this are not clear, but understanding them will become ever more important as policy towards widening participation, fair access and social mobility develops. The role of schools, colleges and universities in supporting these aims remains crucial.'