As this new and unusual academic year starts taking shape, thousands of students are trying to settle into their new lives at university. For some students, going to university will seem like the obvious, normal thing to do. Others, especially those who are the first in their families to attend higher education, may be stepping into less comfortable new world.
A plethora of research shows that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to go to university and that if they go, they end up at lower ranked institutions, studying “lower value” courses than their peers from more advantaged backgrounds. At the same time, universities are actively engaging in the “Widening Participation (WP) agenda”, attempting to increase the diversity of their student body. But in order to attract students from disadvantaged backgrounds, universities first need to be able to identify who they are.