The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) has today published statistics from the 2008/09 academic year which indicate that higher education institutions continue to reach out to the most disadvantaged groups in the UK.  Commenting on the statistics, Alice Hynes, Chief Executive of GuildHE, said:

“The figures show that higher education institutions are continuing to capture the interest of under-represented groups.  Institutions attracted a greater proportion of students from low-participation neighbourhoods or receiving disability allowances in 2008/09 than in 2007/08. They are committed to a vision of higher education that ensures, despite funding cuts, that they can carry on doing so.  The prodigious rise of UCAS applicants for 2010-11 suggests that there will be no shortage of able candidates.

“GuildHE institutions have a particular concern to widen access and participation.  Overall, GuildHE institutions admitted a larger than average share of younger students from low-participation backgrounds who study full-time, at 12.2% compared to a UK average of 10.1% in 2008/09. And looking at this year’s figures, a large rise in the number of younger part-time undergraduates from low participation neighbourhoods – from 2.4% in 2007/08 to 3.3% in 2008/09 – was especially pleasing.  Part-time study is frequently a student’s only feasible means of participating in higher education.  The growth we are seeing among younger students from disadvantaged backgrounds confirms the need for more opportunities for flexible study if we want to see more people take advantage of these life-changing chances.

“Dropout rates also continue to fall, and institutions’ further work on student retention should be recognised.  However, institutional support and guidance is not the only source of help that students require to complete their studies.  Members of the next Parliament – especially the large number of new MPs expected to take office – will need to take note of the implications for the financing of students’ education of a rise in the number of successful students who happen to come from less-advantaged backgrounds.  To deny these able students this life-enhancing opportunity is not an option.  Yet a larger proportion of students will need financial support.  The next Government will either need to increase public spending on higher education or to look at other ways of helping students find the funds they need to study.  In this context, we expect Lord Browne’s Independent Review of Funding and Student Finance to present the next Government with innovative solutions to this increasing pressure on the supply of public loans.

“GuildHE also congratulates HESA on its role, which it has carried out since 2002/03, as collector and publisher of the HE Performance Indicators, from which these figures are drawn.  Their publication has consistently complimented the wide-ranging and useful information that HESA publishes every year and, alongside other sources, clearly demonstrates to politicians and the public the achievement of HEIs in expanding higher education to anyone with the desire and the ability to profit from it.”

For more information, please contact:
Alice Hynes, CEO GuildHE,
tel. 0207 387 7711

Notes to editors

1. The HESA Performance Indicators in Higher Education are available at

2. GuildHE is a recognised representative organisation within the higher education sector. 

3. GuildHE members lead institutions which emphasise widening participation and access, and are among the most dynamic and fastest-growing institutions in higher education. For a list of GuildHE institutions, please visit:

4. CORRECTION 16.04.2010, 15:36: A correction has been made to this version of the press release. This is not the first but the seventh year in which HESA has published the Performance Indicators. HESA’s role runs continuously back to the 2002/03 academic year.