Better understanding of ‘first in family’ needed, says AccessHE

New research report reveals on how young Londoners view higher education post-pandemic

Young Londoners are no less likely to pursue HE study due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a new report that also calls for a better understanding of ‘first in family’ students.

The new research released today by AccessHE – Best Laid Plans: London’s ‘Covid Cohort’ and Progression to Higher Education by Dr Richard Boffey and Emily Dixon – is based on a survey of 16-to-18-year-olds in London undertaken in early September 2021 by polling agency YouthSight.

The 503 responses to the survey suggest that young Londoners planning to go university remain committed to their higher education aspirations and feel confident about receiving a normal or near-normal experience once they get there.

“Young people completing their secondary education have had a great deal to contend with in the last 18 months. Much attention has been paid to the scale and consequences of Covid-related ‘lost learning’ but less is known about how the pandemic has affected their outlook on and preparations for next steps after school and college. That is why we have written this report, based on extensive polling of young Londoners,” head of AccessHE Richard Boffey told University Business.

“It contains good news for the HE sector, showing that university continues to be part of many young people’s future plans. But it also contains a warning that some groups may be less prepared to make the transition to higher education. This requires a rethink of how HE transition support is delivered. As we recommend in the report, any new support should be co-created with students; in London specifically, this could take the form of working with a pan-regional, newly-established youth HE progression committee”.

It is vital that the capital’s schools, colleges and universities find new and innovative ways of working together to support the transition into higher education of London’s large and diverse student community – Diana Beech, London Higher

The report finds:

  • No evidence that London’s school and college leavers are less likely to pursue higher education study post-pandemic
  • The majority of those surveyed are expecting a normal or near-normal higher education experience
  • Students who are the first in their family to go to university are more likely to seek information, advice and guidance about higher education outside the family home and are therefore more likely to benefit from university resources, in-person events and dedicated mentoring or buddying schemes

 

The report looks at the different ways young Londoners find information about higher education

 

The report also makes the following recommendations:

  • Higher education providers should include ‘first in family’ in their evaluation of – and reporting – on continuation outcomes for students, to ensure ‘first in family’ students receive longer-term, structured engagement opportunities
  • A young Londoner higher education (HE) progression committee should be created to facilitate conversations between students, providers, schools and colleges.

 

“With demand for higher education in England set to rise sharply over the next decade, especially in London and the South East, it is vital that the capital’s schools, colleges and universities find new and innovative ways of working together to support the transition into higher education of London’s large and diverse student community,” said Dr Diana Beech, chief executive officer of London Higher, the representative body for over 40 London HE providers, of which AccessHE is a division.

“A pan-London forum to address London students’ future needs will be key to ensuring local Londoners achieve parity of opportunity and are set up to succeed.”


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