Modelling the demand for higher education by local authority area in England using academic, economic and social data
Harrison, N. (2012) Modelling the demand for higher education by local authority area in England using academic, economic and social data. To be published in British Educational Research Journal. ISSN 0141-1926 [In Press]
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Managing the demand for higher education has been a major concern of successive UK governments over the last thirty years. While initially they sought to increase demand, latterly the emphasis has been on widening participation to include demographic groups among which it has traditionally been low. There had long been an academic and policy interest in the drivers of demand, but an appreciation of the contrasting patterns between different geographical areas was relatively late to emerge. Little research has thus far focused on the extent to which demand within an area is a function of background factors with a spatial dimension. For example, while it is known that demand tends to be lower in deprived areas, it is not well understood what specific features of deprivation cause this. This paper reports the findings of a quantitative study using linear regression modelling to determine which localised factors played a significant role in the demand for higher education between 2004 and 2009 in English local authority areas. It concludes that attainment at 16, the proportion of working-age graduates and the ethnic profile are major explanatory variables, but that the nature of the local employment market also plays a role in explaining changes over time. Coinciding with other significant changes in the education sector, the abolition of the Aimhigher initiative in July 2011 marked the return of demand management back to individual universities, so the importance of spatial patterns in higher education demand are likely to be of renewed importance in coming years.
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