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To be successful at widening participation, universities need better access to data, writes Dean Machin.

If universities and colleges fail to widen participation, it will not be for want of effort. It may, however, be due to lack of understanding about how to do it. This is because if academics want to know anything about the social policies that might enable individuals to fly as high as their talents and effort will take them, they need to get on top of the data. And there are a lot of data.

Was the literacy hour, introduced by the last government to improve reading and writing in primary schools, effective? Well, what GCSE scores did those who went through it obtain? What about those who did not experience it? As it is not uncommon for positive effects to fade over time, what happened in the transition from school to university (or to further education or to work)? What about career and income progression?

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