Understanding the changing gaps in higher education participation in different regions of England icon

Understanding the changing gaps in higher education participation in different regions of England

Research shows that prior educational attainment and ethnicity are important predictors of participation in higher education. However, even when these are accounted for, some areas have much higher or lower levels of participation than would be expected, suggesting other factors are also at play.  The aim of this study was to explore what these factors might be.

The project was carried out in collaboration with widening participation expert Professor Liz Thomas and behavioural economics expert Professor Jennifer Roberts and investigated eight local areas across England. As well as a review of literature on the topic, we carried out primary qualitative research (focus groups and individual interviews) with young people aged 13 to 18, parents and stakeholders such as schools,  colleges, employers and careers advisers. This was supplemented with analysis of data from the Longitudinal Survey of Young People in England (LYSPE). Overall, this gave us an excellent understanding of the different influences on career and education decision-making including peers, family, teachers, careers advice and the media as well as environmental and cultural factors.

Lindsey Bowes image

Key project contact

Lindsey Bowes

Lindsey joined CFE Research in 2008 and led the team responsible for HE policy research before becoming research director in 2014. She has particular expertise in widening participation, student financial aid and student decision making, although in her current role she also oversees projects in CFE’s other work strands, the economy and wellbeing.

Over the past 20 years Lindsey has contributed to research that has informed policy and practice at the national level, including the National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education and the National Strategy for Access and Students.