Widening participation through admissions policy - a British case study of school and university performance

Anthony Hoare, Ron Johnston*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


It has been widely claimed that UK students from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds but nevertheless having the potential to benefit from a degree programme are being denied higher education places because of their relatively poor paper qualifications. As a consequence, the claim continues, students from independent schools have an advantage in the competition for such places. Universities have responded to such claims, and incentives from the government to do so, by introducing widening participation programmes, but very little research has been done which explores whether students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are admitted to elite universities perform as well as their counterparts with better entry qualifications. Using a large data set from one university, this article explores performance by students at A-level and their first and final university years. Students from independent schools performed better at A-level than those from state schools, but not at their university examinations, other things being equal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-41
Number of pages21
JournalStudies in Higher Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011


  • Academic achievement
  • Admission conditions
  • Underachievement
  • University practices
  • Widening participation

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