University participation rate stalls

The growth in the proportion of young people participating in higher education has stalled after years of steady increases, according to new figures.

March 28, 2012

The provisional Higher Education Initial Participation Rate (HEIPR) for 2010-11 was 47 per cent and unchanged from the previous year, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills revealed in a statistical release today.

The BIS release says the figure “marks the first time in recent years that the HEIPR measure hasn’t had a year-on-year increase”.

The HEIPR, which measures participation rates among 17- to 30-year-olds from England studying at UK institutions, was the yardstick used by the Labour government to judge progress towards its 50 per cent participation target.

In 2006-07, the participation rate was 42 per cent, and it rose annually to reach 47 per cent in 2009-10.

The 2010-11 HEIPR covers a year in which there were 10,000 extra places created under the University Modernisation Fund, announced at the tail end of Labour’s time in government.

These extra places are not being repeated in 2012-13, contributing to a decline in the total number of places available.

With demand from UK students for a university education continuing to outstrip supply, the participation rate could fall in future, it has been suggested.

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of the Million+ group of newer universities, said: “The fact that participation in higher education among 17- to 30-year-olds remained static, compared with 2009-10, was not because of a lack of interest from students but reflects the failure of the government to significantly increase the number of funded student places available.”

The BIS data release can be viewed here.

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