Last week, we launched the report ‘Preparing for hyper-diversity: London’s student population in 2030’, at our Annual Conference 2018 with BT: Social Mobility and Higher Education in London.
This report is the first to project demand for higher education (HE) among young London students, based on their ethnicity or socioeconomic position. Base rates of total number of students in 2016 and their rate of entry to HE over the past decade (obtained from a report produced by London councils), combined with Greater London Authority (GLA) based projections are employed to project demand for HE.
The GLA-based projections depict an increase of around 17% between 2016 and 2030, and the estimated number of students overall in 2016 is estimated at around 67,020 (where ethnicity can be identified) and 55,990 (where socioeconomic position – as identified by whether parents had previously attended university – can be identified).
Projections reveal an overall projected increase of over 13,000 additional places based on demographic increase alone.
Where varying participation rates in higher education – by both ethnicity and socioeconomic position – are taken into account alongside demographic changes, the expected change to 2030 is an increase of over 50%. The projected increase in the number of students is largest (over 10,000) for students from Black African and mixed backgrounds, and smallest for Black Caribbean students. We are expecting to witness a reduction in the number of Indian and Chinese students. A greater increase in HE demand is projected for students who are the first in their family to go to university – around 27,000 – relative to a projected increase of around 17,000 for students whose parents had attended university.
The expected effect is a more diverse population in students from London, with almost three-quarters of students from BAME backgrounds and over half of students being the first in their family to go to university. Additionally, we project 100% participation in HE among students that are eligible for free school meals, in Westminster.
It is important to acknowledge that these are projections made with respect to the HE landscape over the past decade. The introduction of new qualifications, such as T-levels, or improvements in access to apprenticeships in London may reduce the demand for HE. This being said, the duration over which the impact – if any – on HE demand is unclear, and may not be apparent as early on as over the next decade. It is also important to acknowledge that our projections may underestimate the future demand for HE. Where London is leading on education, there is still considerable room for improvement. Inequality in educational outcomes by both socioeconomic position and ethnicity remains evident. If effective measures are put in place to improve educational outcomes across the board, the potential for HE demand may be greater.
Increasing diversity in the student population is a cause for celebration. As such, while projections (by their nature) cannot be definitive, they form the basis of realistic targets for policy makers and higher education institutions.
Our findings reveal differences in participation rate between Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups. The untapped potential among some ethnic groups warrants further exploration and effective outreach, if we are to truly acknowledge diversity as a virtue and something to be sought.
Where young people of diverse backgrounds are finding their path in the higher education sector, higher education institutions must work to providing an environment which provides an enriching experience for all students.
Dr Tuba Mazhari – AccessHE Research Officer and co-author of the report.