Following the reforms to the funding system in 2012, real progress continues to be made in widening participation in higher education. The proportion of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds going into higher education has risen from 13.6% in 2009 to 19.5% in 2016.
As a result of the funding changes and the increased income available to universities, with universities forecasting income growth of £2.3bn by 2020 from their planned expansion of student places, there is an expectation that HE providers should take more responsibility for widening participation.
Through access agreements universities expect to spend £833.5 million in 2017/18 on measures to improve access and success for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is up significantly from £404 million in 2009.
Subject to the passage of the Higher Education and Research Bill we are further strengthening our approach to widening participation by:
o Establishing the Office for Students (OfS), which will have a statutory duty to consider the promotion of equality of opportunity in relation to access and participation.
o Introducing a Transparency Duty requiring providers to publish application, offer, drop-out and attainment rates of students broken down by ethnicity, gender and socio-economic background.
o Ensuring that activities aimed at student retention success and progression in are included in within Access and Participation Agreements.
o Enabling the provision of alternative student finance consistent with the principles of Islamic finance.