Widening participation

University access

Only 26% of young people eligible for free school meals go to university, compared to 43% of their better-off peers.

What is widening participation?

The term 'widening participation' refers to raising the attainment of people from disadvantaged backgrounds that are under-represented at university. Widening participation aims to ensure that universities reflect the diversity represented in wider society.

What is Impetus doing on widening participation?

We work with charities like The Access Project and IntoUniversity to improve university access for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Many organisations like these rely on widening participation funding. Currently, the government requires universities to set aside a proportion of their income towards funding widening participation programmes.

Our widening participation recommendations for government

Impetus is calling on the government to protect widening participation funding so that we can close this university access gap for disadvantaged young people.

Together with our charities, other social mobility charities and the Russell Group – we've formed the Fair Access Coalition and issued a statement on widening participation, in response to the government’s post-18 education funding Augur review:

  1. Irrespective of what tuition fee regime the review opts for, we call on the government to protect widening participation funding, while building on momentum around spending it effectively.
  2. We urge the government to avoid adding complexity to the higher education funding landscape and to ensure that all students have the information, advice and guidance they need to make good choices in higher education.
  3. We urge the government to increase the amount of maintenance support available to young people, for instance by restoring maintenance grants, so that university is affordable for everyone.
  4. We urge the government not to impose a cap on student numbers.

We also met with Sam Giymah, former Minister for Universities and Science to discuss how we can protect widening participation together.

We're also calling on government to help ensure recent social mobility gains are not sent into reverse – a danger of tuition fee cuts.

Find out more

Youth Jobs Gap: Higher Education

Higher Education is one of the most topical issues in politics, with the UK government’s post-18 education and funding review (the Augur review) due to report back imminently. For the first time, this Youth Jobs Gap report analyses the Longitudinal Educational Outcomes (LEO) data, showing the clearest picture of disadvantaged young people and their access to higher education to date, including differences between different regions in England.

May 2019

Funding for the future

With the government’s review of post-18 education ongoing, and most of the debate seemingly centring on tuition fees, we must remember that widening participation work is essential to helping more disadvantaged young people access higher education.

June 2018

Closing the gap in university access: a response to the DfE Green Paper ‘Schools that work for everyone’

Disadvantaged young people are half as likely to university compared to their better off peers. This briefing explores how universities can help improve school attainment and widen access to university.

December 2016