Equity in tertiary education

Post-compulsory learning is associated with a range of positive life outcomes, such as enhanced employment opportunities, increased earnings and improved wellbeing. However, evidence suggests that there are inequalities in access to, progression within, and outcomes from tertiary education among different groups.

To address these inequalities and to provide a whole-system approach to post-compulsory education, the Welsh Government is establishing a Commission for Tertiary Education and Research (CTER), which will fund, oversee and regulate all post-16 education in Wales. The Wales Centre for Public Policy has been asked by the Welsh Government to provide evidence to support CTER in meeting its duty to promote equality of opportunity in the tertiary education sector in Wales.

Equality of opportunity is understood to include increasing participation and retention; reducing attainment gaps; and supporting students from under-represented groups. In addition, CTER will be required to regulate providers to develop and deliver measurable outcomes related to improving equality of opportunity.

WCPP have been asked to address the following key questions:

  1. Which groups are currently under-represented in tertiary education in Wales, drawing on the best available data?
  2. What evidence is available from other UK nations and Ireland on what works in promoting equity in tertiary education?
  3. Which interventions could best redress these inequalities?

We are working with ADR Wales to undertake research to explore which groups are currently under-represented and how through a cohort-based evaluation of learners. For question 2 we have conducted a rapid review of the evidence surrounding interventions elsewhere in the UK and Republic of Ireland, looking at what has worked elsewhere and could be implemented or adapted in Wales. To answer question 3, we will invite a range of leading thinkers to reflect on the findings from the data analysis and evidence review to share their views on which interventions could best reduce inequalities in tertiary education in Wales.

This project began in 2022, and outputs will be published in early 2024.