AccessHE is delighted to see the success of London’s school and college students who took A Level, T Level and BTEC exams this year and the high numbers progressing to higher education in autumn. Almost four thousand more students will be commencing HE programmes in London next term than in 2019, when students last sat summer examinations. The HE acceptance rate for in London is 8% higher now than it was then.
Students and teachers across the capital therefore have much to be proud of, particularly given the challenging circumstances in which these results have been achieved.
Assuming HE entry patterns in London follow national trends, we can expect learners from widening participation and non-traditional backgrounds to be better represented in the city’s class of 2022 than ever before. John Blake, the Director for Fair Access and Participation at the Office for Students, has said that the OfS is “encouraged to see early indications of a continued increase in the rate of disadvantaged students gaining places” as the number of students from the most disadvantaged areas has risen from 3,770 in 2019 to 6,800 this year. Similarly, the gap between students entering HE from the most and least socio-economically deprived areas of the country (as defined by the Index of Multiple Deprivation, IMD) has narrowed. This is an encouraging and welcome achievement.
At the same time, we must recognise that these students may need additional support if they are to succeed in higher education. This is especially true given the disruption to their education caused by the pandemic and the stress and pressures that come with getting it back on track. Combined with this, the cost of living crisis, which is only likely to worsen in the second half of this year, has been shown by recent research to impact students’ attitudes towards HE.
As such, effective interventions aimed at helping widening participation students to navigate the transition to HE and to achieve to their full potential once there are more critical than ever. There is much existing good practice from across the AccessHE membership to draw inspiration from here, for instance Brunel University’s GetUReady project, and Queen Mary University of London’s Step Ahead programme for Business and Management students – to name just two initiatives. We have developed resources of our own aimed at incoming students from widening participation backgrounds in the form of our Know Before You Go guide.
In 2022-23, AccessHE will be continuing to support students through the dual challenges of rising living costs and pandemic-related learning loss, working in partnership with our HE members and sector partners as well as with both current and pre-entry students. This will include dedicated new projects launched via our Steering Group and as part of our portfolio of Uni Connect activities.
First and foremost, however, we want to congratulate students, not least those who will be commencing an HE course in London later this year, on today’s outstanding results.