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Trends in young participation in higher education: core results for England

January 2010 | ref: 2010/03

To:

Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those responsible for:

Increasing and widening participation, Policy development

This publication reports on the trends in young participation from the mid-1990s to the present.

Executive summary

Purpose

1. This publication reports on the trends in young participation in higher education from the mid-1990s to the present.

2. We have an established programme of analysis tracking the proportion of young people from different backgrounds who enter higher education at age 18 or 19 ('young participation'). Recent development of this work, including introducing provisional results based upon applications data, allows us for the first time to report on a consistent basis trends in young participation for the cohorts of young people reaching 18/19 years of age between 1994/1995 and 2009/2010.

3. This publication focuses on a set of core results to allow rapid reporting of trends following the finalisation (in December 2009) of applications data for the 2009 entry cycle. These core results cover young people from England and describe trends in young participation for England as a whole, for each sex, and for area-based groups differentiated by educational, occupational and financial advantage.

4. The report is divided into two sections. This executive summary outlines the findings through key points (paragraphs 5 to 18) and an overview (paragraphs 20 to 36). The main report describes the detailed results. It explains how we report young participation (paragraphs 37 to 41) followed by an account of the trends in young participation covering England (paragraphs 42 to 45), area-based groups differentiated by advantage (paragraphs 46 to 72), and sex (paragraphs 73 to 78).

Key points

Young participation has increased for England

5. Young participation has increased from 30 per cent in the mid-1990s to 36 per cent at the end of the 2000s, making young people today over +20 per cent more likely to go on to higher education than in the mid-1990s.

Large differences in participation rates by where young people live

6. There are large differences in participation rates by where young people live: currently fewer than one in five young people from the most disadvantaged areas enter higher education compared to more than one in two for the most advantaged areas.

Young people from disadvantaged areas substantially more likely to enter higher education since the mid-2000s

7. In the most disadvantaged areas there have been substantial and sustained increases in the proportion of young people entering higher education since the mid-2000s.

8. The recent increases in participation rates for young people living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods are found whether neighbourhood disadvantage is defined by participation rates themselves, or by measures of parental education, occupation or income.

9. The proportion of young people living in the most disadvantaged areas who enter higher education has increased by around +30 per cent over the past five years, and by +50 per cent over the past 15 years.

10. The increases in the proportion of young people living in the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods who enter higher education are consistent with other statistics including recent trends in GCSE attainment.

Young people from advantaged areas are also more likely to enter higher education

11. The proportion of young people from the most advantaged areas who enter higher education has also increased, typically by +5 per cent over the past five years and +15 per cent over the past 15 years.

Differences in participation rates between advantaged and disadvantaged neighbourhoods have reduced since the mid-2000s

12. The increases in the young participation rate for those living in the most disadvantaged areas have been greater in proportional terms and, since the mid-2000s, percentage point terms, than the rises for those living in advantaged areas.

13. Since the mid-2000s the majority of additional entrants to higher education have come from more disadvantaged areas.

14. Most ways of measuring the differences between the participation rates of advantaged and disadvantaged neighbourhoods have shown a reduction since the mid-2000s.

Participation rates higher for women, but recent substantial increases for men

15. Young women have been more likely to enter higher education than young men for every cohort in this analysis. Currently 40 per cent of young women enter higher education compared to 32 per cent of young men.

16. The participation rate of young men now trails that of young women by a decade and over the past 15 years around 270,000 fewer young men than young women have entered higher education as a result of their lower participation rate.

17. In the mid-2000s young women were +25 per cent more likely to enter higher education than young men, rising to +44 per cent more likely in disadvantaged areas.

18. Since the mid-2000s the participation rate of young men has increased materially – from 29 per cent to 32 per cent – for the first time since the early 1990s.

Action required

19. This report is for information: no action is required in response.

Enquiries should be directed to:

Mark Corver, tel 0117 931 7127, e-mail m.corver@hefce.ac.uk

Page last updated 1 December 2011

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