Hefce’s high-definition maps reveal ‘cold spots’

Information is intended to start conversations on finding local solutions to filling gaps in subject provision and employability

October 2, 2014

Detailed data showing “cold spots” in higher education provision across England have revealed for the first time gaps in subject provision, student mobility and graduate employment.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England hopes that maps created with the information will spur universities to work with local partners to identify and fill gaps using tailored local solutions.

Earlier this year, David Willetts, who was then universities and science minister, asked Hefce to look at how to help institutions boost higher education in such cold spots. The resulting interactive maps, published by Hefce on 1 October, probe deeper into higher education coverage than previous work by exploring underlying factors determining participation.

Data on higher education progression by ward, for example, show that the proportion of students from some parts of Leeds, Birmingham and East London who begin undergraduate-level study is lower than expected given GCSE attainment. By contrast, the outskirts of Liverpool and the majority of areas around Cheshire have participation rates higher than expected by GCSE grades.

Armed with this information, universities can begin to discuss the matters with local schools, said Yvonne Hawkins, director of universities and colleges at Hefce. “Different types of cold spots are emerging because of the level of detail these maps go into.”

Examining the coverage of specific subjects may allow universities to find previously hidden gaps in provision. Despite the North East of England’s good overall level of higher education provision, for example, there are relatively few places for undergraduate maths, the maps reveal.

Explaining the “logic” of the maps, Ms Hawkins said that they allow universities to talk with local enterprise partnerships and other key players in a region - such as further education colleges and employers - to improve provision.

“Local enterprise partnerships are…considering how to invest and deliver their strategic economic plans. This provides them with a really good evidence base to explore opportunities, needs and demands.”

The areas with the lowest higher education provision - even when allowing for the population of young people who could go to university - have changed little since the last mapping exercise in the late 2000s, according to Mark Gittoes, head of analysis for policy at Hefce. These cold spots remain the South West, the Cumbrian coastline, Humberside and North Yorkshire and the East of England.

Ms Hawkins said that some regions that have improved provision have required a “huge amount of investment and some risk-sharing on the part of the universities”, citing a £100 million partnership in Cornwall uniting universities and further education providers to provide new facilities for students.

But there have been less capital-intensive initiatives, she said, pointing to Teesside, where a strategic partnership involved universities working with an existing network of further education colleges to improve provision geographically.

holly.else@tesglobal.com

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy