Higher Education

, Volume 70, Issue 6, pp 903–921 | Cite as

University access for disadvantaged children: a comparison across countries

  • John JerrimEmail author
  • Anna Vignoles


In this paper, we consider whether certain countries are particularly adept (or particularly poor) at getting children from disadvantaged homes to study for a bachelor’s degree. A series of university access models are estimated for four English-speaking countries (England, Canada, Australia and the USA), which include controls for comparable measures of academic achievement at age 15. Our results suggest that socioeconomic differences in university access are more pronounced in England and Canada than Australia and the USA and that cross-national variation in the socioeconomic gap remains even once we take account of differences in academic achievement. We discuss the implications of our findings for the creation of more socially mobile societies.


University access Educational inequality Social mobility PISA 



Jerrim has been partly funded by the British Academy and the ESRC. He also wishes to acknowledge the invaluable support of the PATHWAYS postdoctoral programme. Vignoles time has been partly funded by the Nuffield Foundation. Helpful comments have been received from participants at the Sutton Trust social mobility summit, the 2012 IWAAE conference, 2012 LLAKES conference and seminars at the Institute of Education and Michigan State University. Particular thanks go to Stephen Childs for research assistance with the YITS data and to Barbara Schneider for facilitating Jerrim’s visit to MSU.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Quantitative Social Science, Institute of EducationUniversity of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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