Opening Doors: Understanding and overcoming the barriers to university access

30 January 2015

Ensuring our doors are wide open to able students from all backgrounds really matters to us. That’s why Russell Group universities are investing a huge amount of time, effort and resources and developing pioneering schemes to help close the access gap. And real progress has been made over the last few years: for example, in 2013 students eligible for free school meals (FSM) were 39% more likely to win places at leading universities than they were in 2011. The proportion of students from state schools and colleges increased from 68.3% to 75% between 1997 and 2013.


But precisely because broadening access matters so much to Russell Group universities, we are far from complacent or content with progress to date. There is still much further to go in solving the problem of the under-representation from poorer backgrounds in higher education.

The root causes of the problem are many and complex. They are founded in a child’s earliest years and compounded at each stage of a young person’s life. Indeed, there is evidence to show educational disadvantage starts, not with the UCAS form, but in the cradle.

Opening doors: Understanding and overcoming the barriers to university access

This two-part report explores the underlying barriers that mean less advantaged students are under-represented at highly-selective universities and looks at how Russell Group universities are helping to overcome these.

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