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Access and participation

Widening participation

This broad term is used to describe groups and characteristics that are under-represented in higher education.

Underrepresentation needs to be considered in context. Reasons for under representation vary and could relate to a student's home postcode, personal characteristics, family circumstances or qualifications.

We recognise the potential of talented students from all backgrounds and consider the following groups as underrepresented in higher education:

  • students from areas of low higher education participation
  • students with low household income and/or low socioeconomic status
  • minority ethnic students within higher education
  • mature students
  • disabled students
  • care leavers
  • students with disrupted education (carers, people estranged from their families, people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, refugees, people with specific learning differences and mental health difficulties, children of military families)

This is not a homogenous group and students may not identify or be aware that they are underrepresented in higher education. Avoid using the terms disadvantaged or deprived and be specific in language, for example, mature students:

Mature students



Further resources