Start date:
January 2013
End date:
July 2014
Economic and Social Research Council, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales

The overall aim of the proposed research was to demonstrate the effectiveness of the secondary analysis of administrative data-sets to delineate patterns of participation in higher education (HE) and, thereby, to contribute to the development of policy and professional practice in widening access in Wales (and more widely). The project was based upon a collaboration between the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and the Welsh Government (WG).

More specifically, the objectives of the proposed research were as follows.

  1. To assure the quality of three linked administrative data-sets: the National Pupil Data Base (NPD) for Wales; the Lifelong Learning Wales Record (LLWR); and data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). These data-sets were made available by the WG.
  2. To explore the potential for extending this resource through the linking of further data-sets (for example, income data held by the Student Loans Company).
  3. To carry out - for the first time in Wales - a detailed descriptive analysis of the progression of individuals through compulsory education, into post-16 education and on to HE.
  4. To use statistical modelling to uncover the most significant determinants of entry/non-entry to HE, comparing the influence of, for example, the social characteristics of individuals, their previous educational attainment and their progress through the educational system. This sought to replicate and develop further the analysis of equivalent data for England by Chowdry et al. (2010).
  5. To conduct fieldwork, comprising documentary analysis and semi-structured interviews with key actors, to establish trends of change in Wales's distinctive widening-access policies over time and to uncover their underpinning rationales. This was to be done for both national-level policies and for implementation within the HEIs. This fieldwork was resourced through additional funding from the HEFCW.
  6. To use the secondary data analysis as a robust, evidence-based framework to evaluate the effectiveness of the widening-access policies adopted in Wales and of the approaches to implementation adopted within the HEIs.
  7. To compare the effectiveness of the distinctive widening-access policies adopted in Wales with those in other parts of the UK and England, in particular.
  8. (To disseminate the scientific results of the proposed research through conference presentations and peer-reviewed publications.
  9. Building on the collaboration between WISERD, the HEFCW and the WG, to establish effective mechanisms for knowledge exchange and transfer. The results from the proposed research were to be fed directly into the deliberations of both the WG and the HEFCW on widening access that will be taking place over the coming few years especially intensively.
  10. To undertake capacity-building activities with the professionals within the HEIs who have responsibility for implementing widening-access strategies, with the particular objective of integrating the analysis and use of secondary data much more firmly into their day-to-day practice.

Associated Work

Evaluation of the Education Maintenance Allowance and Assembly Learning Grant (Further education)

Research team
Gareth Rees
Research Professor, WISERD Director 2010 - 2013
Cardiff University
Rhys Davies
WISERD Co-Director, Associate Director of ADR-Wales
Cardiff University
Ceryn Evans
Research Associate
Cardiff University
Caroline Wright

Reports and Briefings
To what extent are institutional widening access strategies delivered on a departmental level? Impact and Effectiveness of Widening Access to HE in Wales Working Paper Series 1 WAQLCE2014-9
In recognition of inequitable rates of participation in higher education amongst individualsfrom different social groups, the Welsh Government has implemented policies putativelyaimed at widening access to HE amongst social groups traditionally underrepresented therein(Welsh...
Reports and Briefings
A review of approaches adopted by HEIs in Wales to evaluating widening access. Impact and Effectiveness of Widening Access to HE in Wales Working Paper Series 1 WAQLCE2014-6
Widening participation in higher education has been a central pillar of UK Government'shigher education policy since the 1990s. In Wales, the centrality of the 'widening access'agenda within its strategy for higher education has resulted in pressure on HEIs to expandaccess...
Reports and Briefings
Targeting 'Communities First' areas in Wales to widening access to higher education: how appropriate are the methods? Impact and Effectiveness of Widening Access to HE in Wales Working Paper Series 1 WAQLCE2014-11
In recent years, widening participation in higher education in Wales has been a keypolicy drive of the Welsh Government. Central to meeting its widening access agendahas been the adoption of area based strategies to widening access to higher education(HE) in Wales. This has...
Reports and Briefings
How is the Welsh Government's widening access policy delivered on a regional level? Impact and Effectiveness of Widening Access to HE in Wales Working Paper Series 1 WAQLCE2014-8
Widening access to higher education has been a central theme within the WelshGovernment's strategy for higher education in recent years. This widening access agenda ispredicated on the basis that particular social groups (namely, those from particular social,ethnic or...
Reports and Briefings
What is 'widening access' to higher education? A review of approaches adopted by HEIs and colleges in Wales to 'widening access' to HE. Impact and Effectiveness of Widening Access to HE in Wales Working Paper Series 1 WAQLCE2014-5
Despite major expansion of higher education (HE) in the UK over recent decades individualsfrom the least socially advantaged backgrounds continue to enter HE at lower rates than theirmore advantaged counterparts (Christie et al, 2005; Croll and Attwood 2013), and when theydo...
Reports and Briefings
Modelling Access to Higher Education: an evaluation of previous approaches. Impact and Effectiveness of Widening Access to HE in Wales Working Paper Series 1, WAQNCW2013-1
Access to higher education (HE) has become an extremely controversial area of policy, assuccessive UK administrations have sought to balance increasing student fees with ensuringthat HE is open to individuals from as wide a range of social backgrounds as possible. Therehave...

Themes: Education