Encouraging People into University
A growing body of empirical research suggests that young people from less advantaged backgrounds are less likely to apply to university and apply to less selective universities, than more advantaged young people with the same grades or ability. In the United Kingdom Anders (2012), finds students from lower income families, apply to university less often, and to Russell Group universities especially less often, than students with higher incomes, even when controlling for attainment. < Back
Similarly, in the United States, Hoxby and Turner (2013), observe similar patterns, observing that “only a minority of high-achieving, low-income students apply to colleges in the same way that other high achieving students do”. This is particularly confusing in light of the additional financial support available which can often make more selective institutions more affordable than less selective ones.
Over the last three years the Behavioural Insights Team and the Department for Education have conducted a large scale randomised controlled trial that aims to partially address this problem. Drawing on academic research from the UK and the United States, letters written by university students from a similar background were sent to high achieving young people (students who scored more than 367 points on their best 8 GCSEs and went to schools which typically sent more than 20% of their high achieving students to their nearest higher education institution) during their first year in sixth form,
encouraging them to aim higher in life.