By Professor John Storan
This report is the fifth in a series of reports providing analysis of the higher education journey of young London residents as they progress from 16-18 institutions on to their higher education study and beyond. The report also explores achievement at university and graduate employment. Taken together, the five years of reports span a significantly changing period in higher education – starting in the year before the increase in tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000 per year, and the four years after.
Our primary aim in producing these reports is to assist London local authorities to map the whole of the higher education journey of their young people, and the research aims to not only provide an illustration of that journey, but to also evidence the value of higher education to young people in London in terms of their early graduate employment six months after completing their higher education studies.
Information on the numbers of young people progressing to higher education in London has always been of interest to London local authorities, but it has taken on added importance as more and more jobs in London now and in the future will be at graduate levels 4 & 5, with an emphasis on specialist degrees.
Higher education itself is also changing and responding to the new conditions, with more colleges of Further Education and Further & Higher Education directly funded by Higher Education Funding Council to deliver degrees within the last three years; the removal of limits on the number of undergraduates universities can recruit; a decrease in the number of international students choosing to study in the UK, including EU students; the re-launch of apprenticeships and the growing development of Level 4 higher and degree apprenticeships.
These changes in the provision of higher education represent a reordering of higher education opportunities and a range of different pathways for young people in London who want to progress to Level 4 qualifications and above.
In each of our reports, we have included a different focus each year, and this year we have focused on the impact of higher education on social mobility. Government policy has focused on increasing the percentage of people entering higher education and achieving degrees since the 1990s. This has been primarily a policy drive to provide the higher-skilled workforce that the economy needs, but Widening Participation initiatives have also focused on the social mobility that higher education can offer to young people who are able to enter graduate professions.
For the last 20 years, the Higher Education Funding Council for England has provided financial incentives to universities that recruit students from low income postcodes, and who are the first in their families to enter higher education. Higher Education Funding Council for England has also provided universities with substantial funding for outreach work to encourage more and different young people to participate in higher education and access a wider range of Higher Education Institutions. The establishment of the Office for Fair Access further provided a sector-wide resource in the form of Access Agreements, which are soon to be replaced by Access and Participation Plans regulated by the Office for Students. In October 2015, Universities UK was invited by the Minister of State for Universities and Science, Jo Johnson MP, to provide advice on how universities in England could build on their contribution to social mobility. Universities UK was asked to form an advisory group to focus efforts on improving educational and career outcomes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, those with a disability, as well as those from black, minority and ethnic backgrounds1.
The Universities UK, Social Mobility Advisory Group published their report in October 20162. The report states that there is an overwhelming correlation between a student’s experience at school, and their outcomes at university. They also cited the importance of analysing the whole of the student journey through school 16-19 education, higher education and into employment.
An important finding from the Social Mobility Advisory Group report is that “socio-economic disadvantage continues to be the most significant driver of inequality in terms of access to and outcomes from higher education”.
The report noted that “eighteen year-olds from the most advantaged groups remain 2.4 times more likely to enter university than their disadvantaged peers, and 6.3 times more likely to attend one of the most selective institutions in the UK. Having graduated from university, students from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to go into professional jobs, and if they do they are likely to be paid less”. The findings from the Universities UK report further demonstrate the relevance of the analyses in our reports on the journey of young people in from 16-19 education, through higher education and into employment at London regional and individual borough level. The Universities UK report cites and draws on our 2015 research in its evidence, and given this theme, our report this year includes a section on social mobility, including latest data from the Index of Multiple Deprivation on progression to higher education by IMD decile; the socio-economic status of young higher education entrants, and previous parental participation in higher education.
The social mobility data further underlines the importance of information about the progression of our young people to higher education, and of understanding the social and economic value of higher education in increased employment, graduate earnings, and in building a highly educated, socially mobile and skilled young population to support London’s economic growth and London’s future.
The report can be accessed at: http://hdl.handle.net/10552/6633