University admissions practices and social mobility

Research has consistently shown that higher education (HE) facilitates access to skilled job opportunities and confers economic and social benefits to both countries and individuals (OECD, 2013), including increased social mobility. There is also growing evidence that those from disadvantaged backgrounds can outperform their student peers on graduation, despite having lower qualifications on entry. Thus, the process by which people are admitted to HE should be made as fair as possible, reflecting future potential, rather than socio-economic background.

This research project, supported by The Pearson Think Tank, explores university admissions practices in Russell Group universities. Included in the findings, is an examination of practices surrounding the use of personal statements, school references, contextual data, and ‘preferred subjects studied’.

Although the study is on a small-scale, the report demonstrates the lack of transparency, clarity, and consistency both across (and within) university admissions systems, and the implications of these practices for widening participation and social mobility.

Please use #admissions to follow this project on Twitter.

You can download the full report by clicking on this link, or from the document-viewer below. You can also request hard copies from us if you wish.

The Office for Fair Access (OFFA)’s response to the report can be read here.

Download (PDF, 10.5MB)


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