25 years of university access

Think tank: The Sutton Trust

Author(s): Rebecca Montacute; Carl Cullinane

October 8, 2023

This report by UK think tank the Sutton Trust looks at how access to higher education has changed over time.

A major study of higher education trends over the past 25 years reveals persistent access gaps for disadvantaged students, particularly at the most selective universities. The research, using a unique dataset compiled by dataHE for the Sutton Trust, shows that despite huge expansion of higher education, the progress that has been made in closing access gaps between state and independent school pupils has not translated into significantly more equal representation of young people from less advantaged homes.

The report shows that while we have more young people accessing higher education than ever, an escalating education ‘arms race’ has meant that narrowing the gaps in access to the most selective universities has been stubbornly slow.