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Higher Education: Admissions

Volume 461: debated on Wednesday 20 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent assessment his Department has made of the progress made towards meeting the target of 50 per cent. participation in higher education by 2010. (127772)

The PSA target is to increase participation in higher education towards 50 per cent. of those aged 18 to 30. The main measure for tracking progress on increasing participation is currently the higher education initial participation rate (HEIPR). This is the sum of the HE initial participation rates for individual ages between 17 and 30 inclusive. It covers English-domiciled first time entrants to HE courses, which are expected to last for at least six months, at UK higher education institutions and English further education colleges, and who remain on their course for at least six months. The latest available figures are shown in the table.

Higher education initial participation rate for 17 to 30-year-oldsHEIPR (Percentage)Number of initial participants1999/200039 (39.3)239,0002000/0140 (39.7)239,0002001/0240 (40.2)244,0002002/0341 (41.2)255,0002003/0440 (40.3)257,0002004/0541 (41.3)268,000 Notes:1. The HEIPR is usually published to the nearest integer, but the figures are included to one decimal place to inform comparisons over time.2. Numbers are quoted to the nearest thousand.Source:“Methodological Revisions to the Higher Education Initial Participation Rate (HEIPR)”, published by DfES.

These figures show that the higher education initial participation rate has increased by 2 percentage points between 1999/2000 and 2004/05, representing 29,000 additional initial participants over the period.

The HEIPR figure for 2005/06 was released in a Statistical First Release on 27 March 2007.

In the face of significant and ongoing growth in the key age-groups in the underlying population, further progress will be similarly challenging. Still, the funded places provided to the Higher Education Funding Council allow for some growth in the participation rate. In addition, demand for higher education remains strong. Figures from UCAS show that the number of applicants from England accepted onto UK higher education courses starting in 2005 increased by 8.9 per cent. in comparison to 2004 (301,798 in 2005 against 277,079 in 2004). In 2006, the number of accepted applicants from England fell by 4.2 per cent. compared to 2005, but this was still up by 4.4 per cent. compared to 2004. The latest figures for 2007 entry (showing the position as at mid-January, which normally represents around 75 per cent. of the final total) show there has been a large increase in applicants from England (up by 7.1 per cent. compared to 2006, and also slightly up by 2.4 per cent. compared to 2005). These figures suggest that more progress on this target is possible.