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Higher education funding and access: exploring common beliefs

Researchers: Professor Lorraine Dearden | Professor John Micklewright ...

Project overview

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

Latest on this project



  • Professor Lorraine Dearden
    Institute of Education
  • Professor John Micklewright
    UCL Institute of Education
  • Dr Jake Anders
    UCL Institute of Education
  • Dr Claire Crawford
    Institute for Fiscal Studies
  • Professor Anna Vignoles
    University of Cambridge

  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.