Gaining access: Increasing the participation of disadvantaged students at elite universities

This report assesses the progress made by high-tariff institutions in their attempts to improve access for disadvantaged full-time students.

By ranking 29 elite universities in England, it charts the average annual increase in the proportion of disadvantaged students from 2012-13 to 2016-17. This table is an update from last year’s table based on data from 2011-12 to 2015-16. It shows that over the five-year period, there has been little improvement in the proportion of disadvantaged students attending these universities.

What’s changed?

The report shows that there has been little improvement in access figures. Across the entire university sector, 12 per cent of UK students came from a low-participation neighbourhood in 2016-17 – the same proportion as 2015-16. According to UCAS data, the most advantaged students are 3.8 times more likely to enter high education.

The biggest change this year is the introduction of the Office for Students. The report shows that the new regulator looks to focus on outcomes over inputs and outputs and has demonstrated its commitment to contextualised admissions.

The rankings

The report’s access rankings, based on POLAR3 data, shows that LSE has retained its place at the top of the rankings from last year’s report. It also shows that Newcastle University has gone up 22 places, whereas Southampton have slipped by 20 places. The report demonstrates, however, that there is room for improvement among all universities.

It calls for a breakdown of access spending to better inform funding decisions, a more effective measure of disadvantage and a national campaign to encourage students to apply to elite universities.