Higher education participation rate climbs back up in 2013/14

3 Sep 15

The higher education participation rate in 2013/14 was 47%, four percentage points up on the preceding year, according to provisional estimates published by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills yesterday.

The rate – which is the percentage of English 17- to 30-year-olds who are going to a UK university for the first time – had climbed to 49% in 2011/12, before falling sharply to 43% the following year.

“The 2011/12 increase was predominantly driven by more students choosing not to defer entry in that year in order to avoid having to pay a higher tuition fee, with a consequent reduction in participation among 19-year-olds in 2012/13,” the DBIS statistical bulletin stated.

“Deferrals have returned to more typical levels since 2012/13.”

The provisional HEIPR for men in 2013/14 was 42%, while for women it was 51%, up three and four percentage points on the previous year respectively.

For full-time study the proportion was 42%, 2 percentage points above the levels that were estimated in 2010/11. However, for part-time study it was 4%, 2 percentage points below the 2010/11 estimate. Part-time study has been decreasing since 2012/13, largely driven by reduced female participation, since females constitute most part-time students.

Both represent a return to trend levels for gender participation, DBIS said.

Commenting on the figures, Professor Les Ebdon, director of fair access to higher education, said: “The return to the rising trends seen before the introduction of higher fees is excellent news. It shows that young people continue to see the value of higher education.

“We know from UCAS data that this rise includes increasing proportions of students from under-represented groups, such as those from low-income backgrounds, care leavers, or disabled people. This rise continues into the 2014/15 academic year.”

However, he said there was still a long way to go before young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are as likely to go to university as their more affluent peers.

The fall in part-time students was also a concern as part-time undergraduates were more likely to come from disadvantaged groups.

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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