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Evaluating the fairness of admissions decision making in UK higher education

Research overview

There is currently not enough evidence to say whether admissions decisions are fair – either in the sense that they are made purely on the basis of applicants’ prior attainment irrespective of social background, or that they put the applicants’ achievements in the context of their social background. The project aims to fill these two gaps in academic and policy knowledge, and to explore whether taking context into account would help to widen participation.

 


Benefit

The research is expected to help prospective students from non-traditional backgrounds,

who will benefit from fairer admissions policies, including at the most selective institutions.

 


Government departments  

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) data to be linked with data from the Department for Education


More about the project

This study aims to provide a fuller and clearer answer than has previously been possible to the question of whether admissions to higher education in the UK are fair. There is currently not enough evidence to say whether admissions decisions are fair – either in the sense that they are made purely on the basis of applicants’ prior attainment irrespective of social background, or that they put the applicants’ achievements in the context of their social background. The project aims to fill these two gaps in academic and policy knowledge, and to explore whether taking context into account would help to widen participation.

The researchers want to link data from UCAS, from the National Pupil Database (on secondary school pupils) and from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. They plan to publish at least three journal articles, present at conferences, produce an ESRC report and work with policy makers to influence policy.

The research will provide new evidence to help policy makers (nationally and at universities and colleges), to improve fairness in admission policies.

Ultimately, the research is expected to benefit prospective students from non-traditional backgrounds, who will benefit from fairer admissions policies, including at the most selective institutions.


Date approved 

May 2016


Research team

Dr. Vikki Boliver, Dr Pallavi Banerjee (Durham University)


Page last updated: 24/10/2017