HESA is to be praised for its openness in releasing experimental statistics – perfect fodder for those of a certain nature to open up Tableau and get exploring.
This set will build up into quite a nice resource – and one of the first to look at access and participation across public HEIs and alternative providers.
Here I’ve mashed them up with Wonkhe’s standard comparative data set on region, grouping (mission group and other defining characteristics), and TEF result. As usual, there’s probably a lot more in here that these interactive tables can tell you – but I was interested in what institutional groupings can tell you about widening participation performance.
There’s a whole volume of received wisdom on this topic – for instance, your average policy conference keynote speaker will happily explain:
- Post-92 providers do a better job at widening participation than their pre-92 brethren
- …but it is really alternative providers that do the heavy lifting here.
- MillionPlus is a mission group particularly focused on WP issues
- …and is a large group by volume of students
- The University of Buckingham is more like a traditional pre-92 provider than an alternative provider.
- The entry of more Alternative Providers into the sector is driving widening participation.
And now we can test these assumptions.
I’ve taken out institutions with incomplete data – so this is England only, minus a clutch of smaller APs, Heythrop College, and the Open University.
>What we see on the first tables (tabs one and two) is just your standard lists of institutional performance, both against their regionally adjusted benchmark and as a raw percentage of all entrants. The universities of Sunderland and Teesside takes the highest percentage of their intake from the least participative POLAR4 quartile, but in terms of performance against a benchmark, the University of Suffolk is the stand-out performer.
But one thing I spotted was the absence of alternative providers in the top parts of these tables – surely (I thought) it is the APs that cater to underserved groups. Wasn’t that the point of widening the HE sector – recognising that new and different institutions can do different things?
Grouping by mission
Plotting the data by group proved very interesting. Tabs three, four, and five plot – respectively – the raw number of students from low-participation backgrounds, the overall “size” of each part of the sector in students, and the percentage of total intake from low participation backgrounds.
Looking at the three graphs together shows that in terms of numbers of students and percentage of intake, Universities Alliance institutions are doing a lot to serve regions that had not traditionally participated in HE. In general, post-92 institutions have a higher percentage of their intake from such backgrounds, but in terms of raw numbers, the Russell Group actually take more POLAR4 quintile one students than Million Plus institutions!
This is an artefact of the sheer size of the Russell Group, looking at percentages makes the old “binary divide” very clear.
But what of alternative providers? Well, this is a smaller group (very similar to small and specialist institutions in overall size) but the widening participation performance of the group in percentage terms is both surprisingly low, and dropping year on year. If the present trajectory continues they will have a lower percentage of their intake from POLAR4 quintile one than the Russell Group by next year.
(Private – incidentally – is my way of separating out the University of Buckingham. A unique institution in many ways, I didn’t feel I could fairly add them to any other group.)