We think Widening Participation, and social mobility, are critical to a better world. There's a lot of evidence to support this, and we've collated some of the most important research into these handy guides which bring together some of the key data about the issues surrounding, and benefits of, increasing access to higher education for all.

We hope they'll be a helpful introduction for anyone who isn't familiar with the topic, and a useful reminder of why Widening Participation is so important for those who work in the area.

The benefits of Higher Education: education changes lives

Higher Education is a key engine of social mobility: female graduates earn over £250,000 more than non-graduates over their lifetime; male graduates earn over £170,000 more compared to non-graduates. (BIS, "The Impact of University Degrees on the Lifecycle of Earnings", 2013).

Graduates are more tolerant, have higher levels of political engagement, are more environmentally concerned, and have better health outcomes than non-graduates.  (BIS, "The Effect of Higher Education on Graduates’ Attitudes", 2015).

The benefits of social mobility: getting on in life enriches us all

A modest rise in social mobility – “the extent to which individuals move up (or down) the social ladder compared to their parents” (OECD) – would be associated with a 2% rise in annual GDP, equivalent to £590 per person or £39 billion to the UK economy as a whole (Sutton Trust, "Social Mobility and Economic Success", 2017).

Gaps in Higher Education participation: access to the benefits of HE is not fair

While there are significant benefits to participating in Higher Education, there are large gaps in students’ ability to access particular courses and institutions: four schools and one college had more Oxbridge entrants than 2000 schools and colleges (Sutton Trust, "Degrees of Success", 2011).

65% of students who take A-level or equivalent qualifications in English independent schools go to the top-third of HE providers, compared to 23% in state-maintained schools and colleges. (DfE, "Widening Participation in Higher Education" 2017).

State-educated students who got the same grades as their counterparts in the private sector are a third less likely to be offered a place at a leading university. (Boliver, "How Fair is Access to More Prestigious Universities", 2013).

Across England, there are wide regional variations in HE participation: the North East has the lowest progression rate at 29%, compared to London, which has the highest rate at 43% (DfE, "Understanding the Changing Gaps in Higher Education Participation in Different Regions of England", 2017).

In Scotland, students from the most advantaged areas are four times more likely to go straight to university compared to those from the least advantaged areas. In Wales they are three times more likely and in Northern Ireland they are 2.4 times more likely. (Sutton Trust, "Access in Scotland", 2016).

15% of secondary school pupils in the UK are eligible for Free School Meals (an indicator of low household income), but these students make up only 2% of the intake at the 25 most selective universities in England (Sutton Trust, 2010).

Student choices: why students need to be supported in making better choices

Only 46% of students would choose to do the same course at the same university again. (ComRes, "Universities UK Undergraduate Survey", 2015).

Among high-performing students, course and course content is the most important determinant for decision making at age 18. (Sutton Trust "Tracking the Decision-making of High Achieving Higher Education Applicants" 2012).

State-educated students are a third more likely to achieve a first or 2:1 compared to their privately educated counterparts with the same grades on entry. (Carmen Roderio, Oxford Review of Education, 2015).