Research Background

Our work at IntoUniversity is based upon sound public research into both the need for our work and the effectiveness of our approach.

The Achievement Gap


Education in England: Annual Report 2020

A report from the Education Policy Institute finds that the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers stopped closing for the first time in a decade in 2019. Disadvantaged pupils in England are 18.1 months of learning behind their peers by the time they finish their GCSEs – the same gap as five years ago. The gap at primary school increased for the first time since 2007 – which may signal that the gap is set to widen in the future. The stalling of the gap occurred even before the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted the education system.


State of the Nation 2018-19: Social Mobility in Great Britain

43% percent of children entitled to free school meals did not reach a good level of development at age five, compared to 26 per cent of their more advantaged peers. By seven (end of Key Stage 1) larger gaps are evident in reading (18 percentage points), writing (20 percentage points) and mathematics (18 percentage points). By eleven, (end of Key Stage 2), less than half (46 per cent) of pupils entitled to free school meals reach the standards expected for reading, writing and mathematics, compared to 68 per cent of all other pupils. Only 16 % of those on free school meals attain at least two A-levels by the age of 19, compared to 39% of all other pupils.


Progression to Higher Education


What happened to the COVID cohort? Lessons for levelling up in 2021 and beyond

Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are four times less likely to progress to Higher Education and 12 times less likely to progress to a higher tariff university that their more advantaged



Academic Year 2018/19: Widening participation in higher education

In 2018/19, the gap in progression rates by age 19 between Free School Meal (FSM) and non-Free School Meal pupils has increased to 18.8 percentage points - up 0.2 percentage points since last year and the highest gap since 2006/07 (26.3% of FSM students compared to 45.1% of non-FSM students).  


Social Mobility

The long shadow of deprivation: Differences in opportunities across England

‘Areas with lower pay for disadvantaged sons and less equality of opportunity are typically more deprived, with lower house prices, fewer labour market opportunities in professional occupations and fewer education opportunities in ‘Outstanding’ schools…Education drives opportunities - Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds perform less well at school and are less likely to attend university than those from wealthier backgrounds growing up in the same area. Across local authorities, education gaps between sons from poor and wealthy families explain, on average, around 80% of the gap in adult earnings between them.’


Taskforce aims to improve social mobility in City of London

Nearly nine in 10 senior roles are held by people from privileged families, according to new research from the City of London Corporation. That is in stark contrast with the wider UK workforce, where employees from higher socioeconomic backgrounds – based on their parents’ occupations – make up a third of the population…staff from lower socioeconomic backgrounds faced greater barriers when they tried to move up the corporate ladder, taking 25% longer to progress despite no evidence of poor performance. 


State of the Nation 2018-19: Social Mobility in Great Britain

Those from better off backgrounds are almost 80% more likely to be in a professional job than their working class peers. Those from working class backgrounds earn 24% less a year than those from professional backgrounds, predominantly due to the jobs they end up in. Even when those from working-class backgrounds are successful in entering professional occupations, they earn on average 17% less than their more privileged colleagues.


Early Intervention

Early intervention is a key driver of social mobility. But this intervention needs to be intensive, and long-term.


Where Next? What influences the choices school leavers make?

UCAS says two in five students at university said they would have made better choices if

they had had better information and advice at school. Those from advantaged homes were 1.4 times more likely to think about going to university during their primary school days than their more disadvantaged peers. The report stresses that young people need early engagement in careers information and advice.


Starting Early: Building the foundations for success

Research by Education and Employers shows strong impact of career-related learning on primary-aged children. By the age of seven many of the preconceptions and stereotypes about future careers are already in place - driven by factors such as social background and gender. For example, according to the research 7-year-old girls from disadvantaged families were sketching out futures as hairdressers or shop workers, while their more affluent classmates were expecting to become architects and vets. The has shown how limited career expectations can be in practice - often directly shaped by the role models of the families around them, or the narrow range of jobs depicted on television and in the media. Giving children access to role models from the world of work and empowering teachers to connect directly with employer volunteers to organise high-quality career-related learning. These activities reduce stereotypes, enhance confidence, foster a positive attitude towards school, and improve attainment.


Benefits of Education

Graduate labour market statistics

In 2020 graduates earned on average £9,500 more than non-graduates.


The returns to undergraduate degrees by socio-economic group and ethnicity

Women from the most disadvantaged families who participated in HE earn £10k more. Men from the most disadvantaged families who participated in HE earn £5k more on average by age 30.


Research Briefing 1: Establishing the Employment Gap

Young people with better qualifications are much less likely to be NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training). While 29% of young people without level 2 qualifications (GCSE equivalent) by age 18 were NEET, only 15% of young people with those qualifications were NEET. For young people with level 3 qualifications (A level equivalent), this figure drops to 8%. Each extra step up the qualifications ladder halves your chances of being NEET.


Impacts of COVID-19 - lack of access to resources and inequalities in school provision 


The impact of school closures on autumn 2020 attainment

Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have now fallen further behind their better-off peers as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and school closures. For example, Year 6 Pupil Premium students could now be 7 months behind non-Pupil Premium students in Maths, a widening of 2 months since 2019.


Childhood in the time of Covid

‘Ofcom estimate that between 1.14m and 1.78m children in total in the UK have no home access to a laptop, desktop or tablet...Furthermore, an estimated 60,000 11-18 year olds in the UK have no home internet access at all.’


Independent school pupils twice as likely to get online lessons every day

Teacher Tapp polling found that over half of students in private primaries (51%) and secondaries (57%) took part in online lessons every day during the first lockdown. This is two and a half times as often as their state school contemporaries (19% and 22%).


Learning gaps emerged among primary school children in lockdown

Prior to COVID-19 the time primary school children spent learning was similar among children from better and worse-off families. This was not true during the lockdown: on average the richest pupils spent 75 minutes a day, or 30%, more time learning than their peers in the poorest families.


social mobility charity

Get in touch

For further information, please contact our Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder of the charity:

Dr Hugh Rayment-Pickard
020 7243 0242

Rural aspiration

In 2015 IntoUniversity produced a report on access to university in rural, coastal and dispersed communities in the UK.

The report was funded by the Cabinet Office Social Action Fund and looks at the feasibility of adapting urban models of delivering Higher Education access programmes in areas of lower population density. 

The full report is available here.