Charting Equity in Higher Education: Drawing the Global Access Map

Graeme Atherton, Constantino Dumangane Jr, Geoff Whitty

Research output: Book/ReportBook


According to current figures, there will be almost half a billion higher
education (HE) students around the world by 2030,1 up from about
200 million today.2 There is every reason to expect this number to
continue rising over the course of the 21st century.
The drivers behind the growing demand for HE among students, and
for graduates among employers, are many – the principal among them
being the need for higher-level skills as our labour markets and jobs
change; the growth of the middle class internationally; and the role of
HE study as a gateway to professional careers.
The benefits of HE study to individuals and society are widely recognised.
Continued study – particularly the completion of an undergraduate
degree – is associated with better employment prospects and productivity,
improved health and wellbeing, and greater civic engagement. The belief
that those with the most education will be best equipped to thrive in
today’s global economy – with all its risk, change and uncertainty – has
been highlighted in several reports.3 It is further illustrated by one of
UNESCO’s 2015 lifelong learning goals: that by 2030, we should ensure that
all women and men have equal access to high quality, affordable technical,
vocational and tertiary education, including university.4
Despite the importance of HE and the opportunities it presents, we
know that some groups find it much easier than others to access and
succeed in it, and that there are some shared patterns across countries
in this regard.
To move towards equity, we need a fuller understanding of which groups
are accessing HE. At the moment this knowledge is partial and patchy,
reflecting the relative neglect of HE access data collection, and perhaps,
the complexity of monitoring access to HE.
If robust data on participation in HE are not available, it is difficult to
monitor participation and to begin tackling inequities. So there is a social
justice case for investigating how we might gather comparable data on
who is – and who is not – accessing HE around the world.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherPearson Education
Number of pages38
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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