This paper discusses the difficulties of establishing a clear count of UK higher education students in terms of the categories used for widening participation, such as occupational background or ethnicity. Using some of best and most complete data available, such as the annual figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the paper then establishes that there is little evidence of a simple consistent pattern of under-representation within these categories, except perhaps for men, and students of white ethnicity. However, once prior qualifications are taken into account, there is no evidence that potential students are unfairly and disproportionately denied access to HE in terms of occupation, ethnicity, sex or disability. This has important implications for what we mean by widening participation in HE, and how we might achieve it
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