UWTSD constributes to a new Higher Education report commissioned by King’s College, London


UWTSD’s Trystan Rees has worked closely with the authors of a new Higher Education report, commissioned by King's College, London, which looks at how to target white boys from working class backgrounds, who are among the least likely to go onto university.

A case study provided by Trystan, the university’s Senior Widening Participation Officer, features in the report, which has already received national press coverage.


Trystan said: “This has been an exciting opportunity to develop academic aspirational building activity in partnership with our targeted schools across south west Wales. The feedback received has been extremely positive from both teaching staff and pupils. I look forward to progressing and developing our work in the coming months.”  

Commenting on the report’s publication, lead author and Director of Research at LKMco Dr Sam Baars said: “The university case studies really helped us to give concrete examples of practice, barriers and challenges. Low attainment at school accounts for much of the problem of low participation in Higher Education by white working class boys. However it does not explain it away. Likewise, higher tuition fees appear not to have driven participation rates downward. This report therefore digs beneath these factors and asks what it means to be a white working class boy and how this can make it more difficult to progress to higher education. We find that fears about the value of higher education in the workplace and a lack of knowledge about applications and interviews are key barriers to participation.”

Trystan said the report’s case study featured his collaborative work with the English department at Coedcae School, in Llanelli to design workshops to enhance the English GCSE curriculum. “The project was specifically designed to re-engage their Key Stage 4 boys with English as a subject area,” he said. “The workshops were delivered by the Young People’s Poet laureate for Wales, Martin Daws, as well as UWTSD’s academic staff on the over-arching theme of the Second World War.”

 The new report, ‘The underrepresentation of white working class boys in higher education: the role of widening participation’ was commissioned by King’s College London’s Widening Participation Department. The report’s publication, comes less than a week after the decision to bring responsibility for universities and skills into a newly expanded Department for Education (in England) as well as Prime Minister May’s speech in which she noted that “If you’re a white, working-class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university”.

The report provides new analysis of why so few white working class boys progress to higher education and how this can be addressed. Uniquely, it brings together the insights of teachers, universities, academics and sector professionals. It finds that:

Some white working class boys feel forced to conceal their identity in order navigate the world of Higher Education (HE).

Parents should be targeted as part of efforts to increase white working class boys’ participation in HE.

Efforts to increase white working class boys’ access to HE should begin at primary school.

Young people’s belief in the value of attending university can be reduced by their awareness of successful high profile entrepreneurs who have not been to university or by friends who have left university and failed to secure jobs.

There is no agreed definition of the term ‘white working class’ and this makes it difficult to target the group and monitor support.

White working class pupils’ access to some courses is limited by their limited awareness of subjects like Economics and Philosophy.

Universities need to do more to emphasise the practical and vocational elements of HE to white working class pupils.

Highly selective universities consistently fail to meet equality targets but this might be explained by pupils’ grades and subject choices.

And finally, that Further Education apprenticeships are failing to act as a springboard to HEInterviews and personal statements may act as a barrier to white working class boys’ access to HE.

Director of Widening Participation at King’s College London Anne-Marie Canning said: “This important report is essential in helping schools and universities improve the progression rates for white working class pupils to higher education. The report recommends that working with white working class pupils from an early age and engaging parents are key in ensuring all young people have the opportunity to participate in higher education.’

You can read the full report here: : http://lkm.li/WWCBoys

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