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To boost participation we need to do more

To meet the Government’s ambitions for widening participation we cannot simply settle for the status quo. The National Collaborative Outreach Programme offers new ways to build on the HE sector’s considerable experience and expertise.

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In 2015, the Prime Minister set the HE sector a series of significant challenges:

  • to double the proportion of young people in HE from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2020
  • to increase by 20 per cent the numbers of students in HE from ethnic minority groups by 2020
  • to tackle the issue of the chronic under-representation of young men progressing to HE, particularly young men from our more disadvantaged communities.

All the evidence shows that, on current rates of growth, the earliest that the first challenge could be met would be 2027 (and that is based on the current rates of growth in participation being maintained – something that is uncertain in the light of changes to student finance and the broadening out of post-16 choices).

The second challenge is trickier still. The evidence shows that most ethnic minority groups already have quite high rates of participation in HE, but this participation is unevenly distributed across different types of universities and colleges and different parts of the country. And as with white students, socio-economic factors have a part to play.

The third challenge speaks to the long-standing gap in participation between young men and women that has been getting ever wider since the mid-1990s and has shown few signs of narrowing.

There are no easy answers to the challenges we have been set. But what is certain is that simply doing more of the same will not deliver the boost in participation rates required.

What is more, HEFCE’s work has revealed that there are up to 3,800 young people per year who are doing well enough at GCSE to consider higher education but who are simply not going. Why? And what can we do about it?

There are a number of things that need to happen. […]

The National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP), which follows on from the National Networks for Collaborative Outreach (NNCO), is one of the methods the government have implemented to help tackle some of the challenges outlined above. To find out how the NCOP will do this, and what more the sector can do to help support progression to Higher Education, please click here.

North East Raising Aspiration Partnership
Level 3, King's Gate
Newcastle University

Tel: 0191 208 3128