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Home Research areas Education, skills and human capital Higher education Higher education funding and access: exploring common beliefs

Higher education funding and access: exploring common beliefs

This project aims to inform the public policy debate on higher education funding and access. The researchers will analyse several datasets to help shed light on the drivers of the socio-economic gap in higher education participation, as well as key features of the university experience. Specifically, the project will focus on exploring these seven commonly held beliefs:

1. 'Many talented 18 year olds from poorer backgrounds are not going to university'

2. 'Young people from poor backgrounds do not aspire to go to university'

3. 'Qualified 18 year olds from poorer backgrounds do not apply to university - and if they do, they face discrimination'

4. 'Tuition fees prevent students from poorer backgrounds from going to university'

5. 'Poorer children do badly at university'

6. 'University is for full-time students'

7. 'All degrees are worth the same'

The data that the researchers will analyse include:

  • Newly available waves of data from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE), which follows pupils first eligible to enter university in 2008-09.
  • Data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC)
  • Household survey data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the British Household Panel Study (BHPS)
  • Administrative records for entire cohorts of students in England from the National Pupil Database (NPD) linked to databases from further and higher education, e.g. Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) data and applications records from UCAS.

The researchers aim to bring together existing research and their new analyses of these datasets. The findings will be disseminated widely to policy makers, prospective students and their parents. In addition, the researchers plan to publish a short accessible book aimed at the general public.

This research will be carried out in collaboration with Professor John Micklewright and Professor Anna Vignoles from the Institute of Education.


The project is funded by the Nuffield Foundation.



Contact IFS on 020 7291 4800 or

Claire Crawford
Research Fellow
Alissa Goodman
Research Fellow
Wenchao (Michelle) Jin
Research Economist