Higher education funding and access: exploring common beliefs

This project aimed to inform the public policy debate on higher education funding and access. The researchers analysed several datasets to help shed light on the drivers of the socio-economic gap in higher education participation, as well as key features of the university experience. 

Findings have been published in freely available reports available to download from this page, and have also been brought together in a book, Family Background and University Success, published by Oxford University Press. Key findings from the book were presented and discussed at a seminar and book launch hosted by the Nuffield Foundation in partnership with the Institute for Fiscal Studies on 5 December 2016.

Part one includes presentations from:

  • Professor Anna Vignoles, University of Cambridge: How large are the returns to university and how do they vary by institution/subject?
  • Professor Lorraine Dearden, UCL Institute of Education and Institute for Fiscal Studies: How large are the socioeconomic status gaps in higher education participation and what drives them?
  • Dr Claire Crawford, University of Warwick and Institute for Fiscal Studies: Socioeconomic status gaps in degree outcomes

Part two features: 

  • Presentation from Professor Emeritus John Micklewright, UCL Institute of Education: Policy Implications
  • Responses to the book from Professor Nicholas Barr, London School of Economics and Political Science, Professor Les Ebdon CBE DL, Office for Fair Access, and Dr Chris Wilson, The Brilliant Club
Project details



Professor Lorraine Dearden, Professor John Micklewright, Dr Jake Anders, Department of Quantitative Social Science, UCL Institute of Education

Dr Claire Crawford, Institute for Fiscal Studies

Professor Anna Vignoles, University of Cambridge

Grant amount and duration


01 July 2011 – 31 July 2015



Family Background and University Success - Differences in Higher Education Access and Outcomes in England. C. Crawford, L. Dearden, J. Micklewright and A. Vignoles. Published by Oxford University Press, November 2016.

Socio-economic differences in university outcomes in the UK: drop out, degree completion and degree class, IFS Working Paper, November 2014

Heterogenity in graduate earnings by socio-economic background, IFS Working Paper, October 2014

Financial support for HE students since 2012, IFS Briefing Note, October 2014

The rise and demise of the National Scholarship Programme: implications for university students, IFS Observation, October 2014

Teenagers' expectations of applying to university: how do they change? IoE DoQSS Working Paper No. 13-13, October 2013

Money for nothing: estimating the impact of student aid on participation in Higher Education, IoE DoQSS Working Paper, 13-04, April 2013

Using the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England for research into Higher Education access, IoE DoQSS Working Paper No. 12-13, December 2012

University access for disadvantaged children: a comparison across English speaking countries, IoE DoQS Working Paper No, 12-11, December 2012

Fees and student support under the new higher education funding regime: what are different universities doing?, IFS Briefing Note, November 2012

Socio-economic gaps in HE participation: how have they changed over time?, IFS Briefing Note, November 2012

Higher education funding and access: Introduction to the issues, November 2012

What is the link between household income and going to university?, IoE Working Paper, July 2012

The distributional impact of the 2012-13 higher education funding reforms in England, Fiscal Studies Vol 33, No 2, June 2012