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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
Lorraine Dearden
Research Fellow
Alissa Goodman
Research Fellow
Wenchao (Michelle) Jin
Research Economist
Anna Vignoles
Research Fellow
( 10 results found )
Briefing note
Lorraine Dearden, Louis Hodge, Wenchao (Michelle) Jin, Alexander Levine and Laura Williams
This research looks at the impact of changes to financial support for students in higher education
There has been heated debate over the increase in tuition fees to £9,000 a year for many students that occurred in 2012. But another major change to the support for disadvantaged students was introduced at the same time: not only were universities required to provide details of their proposed ...
Journal article | Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A
This paper makes use of newly linked administrative education data from England to understand better the determinants of participation in higher education (HE) among individuals from low socio-economic backgrounds.
Journal article | Fiscal Studies, Vol. 33, No. 4. December 2012
This article corrects 'The Distributional Impact of the 2012–13 Higher Education Funding Reforms in England', Fiscal Studies, Vol. 33, Issue 2, pp. 211–236.
Briefing note
Haroon Chowdry, Lorraine Dearden, Wenchao (Michelle) Jin and Barnaby Lloyd
An in-depth analysis of the new student support arrangements following changes to the HE education finance regime introduced in September 2012.
Briefing note
This Note examines what happened to HE participation overall and at highstatus institutions following the increase in tuition fees (and accompanying changes to student support and other policies designed to 'widen' participation) that occurred in 2006-07.
External publication
Article published in 'Britain in 2013 - the nation in focus'
The Government’s controversial reforms to higher education funding - involving an increase in the cap on tuition fees to £9,000 per year and the removal of most direct funding for universities - have this month been implemented. However, the new system is substantially more progressive than its ...
Journal article | Fiscal Studies, Vol. 33, No. 2, June 2012
This paper investigates the financial implications of the higher education funding regime to be introduced in English universities in September 2012. The analysis is based on simulated lifetime earnings profiles among graduates, linked to imputed information on parental incomes and institution and ...
Journal article | Fiscal Studies, Vol. 33, No. 1, March 2012
Lorraine Dearden, Alissa Goodman and Gill Wyness
This paper focuses on what the increase in resources directed at English universities arising from top-up fees means for the relative funding of English and Scottish undergraduates.