School of Economics

2012 Discussion Papers


School of Economics Discussion Paper 12/15

November 2012


A Longitudinal Perspective on Higher Education
Participation in the UK

Javier Valbuena
University of Kent



This paper is based on the first seven waves of the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) that allow us to follow a recent cohort of pupils from age 14 through to Higher Education (HE) participation at age 19/20. Therefore, our approach involves using rich individual data that have been linked to school level information and geographic markers to examine some of the factors determining HE participation for individuals who were in Year 11 in 2005/06 and who could therefore first enter HE in 2008/2009. Our results indicate that differences in HE participation (including studying a science degree and attending prestigious universities) between students coming from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds are large and that much of the socio-economic gap in HE participation rates is driven by particularly low participation rates for students at the bottom of the income distribution. However, when we introduce controls for prior educational attainment, student’s expectations towards university, academic results during secondary schooling and type of school attended these gaps in participation are substantially reduced. Our analysis suggests that one of the main challenges to widening participation for pupils from poorer socio-economic backgrounds is early policy interventions at, say, age 11 as they are likely to have an im portant effect in HE participation. Also, relatively later intervention (at ages 14 to 16) aiming at improving educational aspirations of teenagers and targeting better GCSEs results will further close the gap.

JEL Classification: I21, I28, J11


Keywords: Education inequality, family background, higher education


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