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Higher education funding and access

This event is now fully booked.

Entry to higher education has long ceased to be the preserve of a small, privileged minority. Nonetheless, there remain substantial socio-economic gaps in university participation and these are viewed as one major barrier to increased social mobility. Concerns about the effects of the higher education funding system on participation amongst students from poorer backgrounds have been brought to the forefront of public debate as the new regime in England - including the controversial increase in tuition fees - comes into place in October 2012.

This ESRC Festival of Social Science event will present new evidence on socio-economic differences in university access and on the implications of the new funding regime in England for students and graduates from poorer backgrounds.

  • Introduction to the issues (John Micklewright, IOE). This session will set the scene. How does university entry in the 21st century vary by family background? What do recent UCAS figures on applications to higher education in England suggest about the likely implications of the new funding regime for participation, especially amongst those from poorer backgrounds? How does this compare to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where funding arrangements differ?
  • The implications of the changes in university funding in England (Lorraine Dearden, Haroon Chowdry, and Michelle Jin, IFS). How has the funding regime for higher education changed in England? What does this mean for the ‘prices’ faced by young people from different backgrounds? This session will provide new evidence on the financial support offered to students by different universities and the implications this may have for efforts to ‘widen’ participation.
  • Socio-economic gaps in university participation (Claire Crawford, IFS). It is well known that there are substantial socio-economic differences in university entry; but much less is known about the role of student support in driving these differences. How did the increase in tuition fees in 2006-07 affect the relationship between family background and HE participation, including at high status institutions? This session will use administrative data on the population of students in England to provide new evidence on this important issue.

The event will be chaired by Professor Sir David Watson, Principal of Green Templeton College Oxford and Trustee of the Nuffield Foundation, and will finish with a discussion of the issues by a panel of expert commentators.

This event is taking place as part of the tenth annual ESRC Festival of Social Science, 3 to 10 November 2012. The evidence comes from research at the Institute of Education and the Institute for Fiscal Studies that is funded by the Nuffield Foundation. Further information on this ongoing research can be found here.