Higher Education: Admissions

Department for Education written question – answered on 23rd July 2019.

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Photo of Paul Farrelly Paul Farrelly Labour, Newcastle-under-Lyme

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of the potential merits of requiring universities in England to use contextual admissions tools to widen participation in higher education.

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Vice-Chair, Conservative Party, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science) (Joint with the Department for Education)

Widening access and participation in higher education is a priority for this government. This means that everyone with the capability to succeed in higher education should have the opportunity to participate, regardless of their background or where they grew up.

We have made real progress in ensuring universities are open to all, with record rates of disadvantaged 18 year olds in higher education. However, we are aware that more needs to be done to ensure that background isn’t a barrier to realising potential in higher education.

Many higher education providers are already using contextual admissions, to support widening access, and the government supports this.

It’s important that higher education providers use good quality and meaningful data to identify disadvantage and under-representation. We encourage institutions to use a range of measures to identify disadvantage and under-representation, including individual-level indicators, area data (such as POLAR, Index of Multiple Deprivation or ACORN), school data, intersectional data such as the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service's (UCAS) Multiple Equality Measure and participation in outreach activities. The department is continuing to work with the Office for Students, UCAS and sector representatives to further explore how we can support universities to improve and enhance access to data.

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