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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 The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.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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Trends in young participation in higher education’ looks at how participation has changed over time, taking into account factors such as sex, location and background [Note 1].  It uses data from 14 cohorts of young people who were aged 18 in academic years 1998-99 to 2011-12.

Regional trends

Increasing proportions of young people from all nine regions of England are going into higher education (HE) [Notes 2 and 3]. However, there is marked regional variation.

  1. There is a widening gap between young people in London who progress to HE and the rest of the country.
  2. By the end of the study period young people from London were 36 per cent more likely to enter HE than they were in the late 1990s. They were, on average, 43 per cent  more likely to participate than young people from the North East, the region where young people are least likely to go on to HE.
  3. Within London, the report shows a clear east-west split. Parliamentary constituencies in the west of the capital have the highest proportion of young people who go into HE, but constituencies in the eastern half have experienced the biggest increases in HE participation over recent years.
  4. Areas where young people are least likely to go into HE are located along the coast, in many former industrial towns in the Midlands and the North, and in rural parts of the South West, the East Midlands and the East of England.

Despite this, HE participation has increased, including in areas where it has been historically low. In the late 1990s young people living in areas where HE participation was highest were four times more likely to go into HE than young people living in low HE participation areas. However, due to increases in HE participation they were three times more likely to enter HE by the end of the study period. Despite this trend, large disparities remain.

Trends in participation for young men and women

The HE participation gap between young women and young men has increased since the late 1990s, although it has narrowed slightly over recent years. By the end of the study period young women were, on average, around 22 per cent more likely to progress into HE by the age of 19 than young men. In areas where HE participation is lowest young women were around 35 per cent more likely to participate in HE than young men.

Interactive maps of young participation by parliamentary constituency


Note 1. ‘Trends in young participation in higher education’ (HEFCE 2013/28) looks at how the proportion of young people who enter HE by the age of 19 has changed over time. It uses official HE enrolment data up to the 2011-12 academic year in conjunction with information on young people accepted to HE through UCAS.

Note 2. HEFCE 2012/26 also explored geographical variation in young HE participation through the POLAR3 classification.

Note 3. The nine English regions are the North East, North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands, East of England, West Midlands, Greater London, South East and South West.