Inclusion in Higher Education

Inclusion in Higher Education

Despite the Scottish Government's sustained attempts to widen participation in Higher Education, outcomes with respect to reducing inequalities in access, attainment and entry into more skilled employment have been disappointing.

This project will examine the drivers and barriers to participation in HE and the factors influencing attainment and employment outcomes at the individual level and with respect to supplying appropriately skilled graduates to the labour market.

Aims and Objectives

Economic and demographic concerns in recent decades have led to the idea of widening participation in HE being strongly embedded in policy, to the extent that few, irrespective of political allegiance, would argue against its wisdom (Osborne and Houston, 2012). Nevertheless, despite sustained government initiatives to support and promote inclusion into post-compulsory education, inequalities persist in access, retention, attainment and subsequent economic outcomes. Socio-economic disadvantage continues to be the most significant driver of inequality in terms of access to and outcomes from higher education. Those from lower socio-economic status backgrounds are less likely to acquire professional jobs, of equivalent salaries, even when entering skilled employment after University (UUK, 2016, PDF 0.2MB). The Scottish Government has also acknowledged that its attempts to widen access to University Higher Education “have not produced the step change in participation that we would have liked” (Scottish Government, 2010, PDF 0.6MB).

In this Scottish context, this project aims to address the following questions:

  • What factors mediate Higher Education participation and subsequent moves into skilled employment for marginalised student groups?
  • What are the barriers to successful progression for marginalised groups in STEM subjects (with emphasis on gender and social class specifically)?
  • Do the first and further destinations of Scottish university graduates suggest that they are feeding levels of over-qualification in the UK labour market? If so, is this related to the UK’s long-term low productivity in comparison with its industrial competitors?


Lead: Professor Catherine Lido

Team: Dr Muir Houston, Dr Phil Mason, Professor Michael Osborne

Jointly funded by