Working Paper 67
Fair Access to English Higher Education in the 21st Century – A Story in 5 Parts
Published May 2021

Watch the conference session recording

This Working Paper is a transcript of the keynote that Chris Millward planned to give at Day 1 of the sixth annual conference of the Centre for Global Higher Education held online on 11 & 12 May 2021.

During the 21st century to date, governments in England have positioned access to higher education centrally within meritocratic policies aiming to improve equality of opportunity. This has been pursued by: increasing the number of university places and sharing the cost of this with students once they have graduated; providing funding to universities to conduct outreach with schools, create pathways through further education colleges and support students on course; and requiring universities to provide financial support to the poorest students and set targets for improving access through regulated plans.

This session, which took place at the 2021 CGHE Annual Conference, considers how these interventions have influenced patterns of access to higher education in England and it will anticipate further changes to policy during the coming years. In doing so, it will tell a story in five parts, covering: the period until 2006 when widening participation was funded by government grant; the introduction of up to £3k fees and the establishment of an access regulator from 2006; the increase of tuition fees to £9k from 2012 and the aim to position students at the heart of the system; the establishment of the Office for Students as the regulator of higher education, including access and participation, from 2018; and the prospects for the period until 2025 as higher education in England recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the full Working Paper here.