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Evaluating widening participation at LSE

LSE is committed to understanding the impact of our activities on the young people we work with. We support the most talented students into university, regardless of their background.

How do you evaluate your projects? 

To understand the impact of our projects, we rely on a number of data points. For most of our programmes and events, young people are asked to complete surveys – usually before and after their participation. This gives us an idea of how their knowledge or attitudes (about university, careers or other topics of interest) have changed during the project. 

We complement this data by analysing Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) records. These allow us to obtain aggregate data on what the young people we have worked with went on to do, ie, if they went to university, what they decided to study, and more recently, what occupations they pursued after their studies. This allows us to understand the long-term impact of our projects, and whether we succeed in bringing about lasting benefits for the young people we work with. 

Lastly, we conduct analysis of our own admissions data, contextualised by information on the sector provided by the Office for Students. This allows us to evaluate the success of our projects more broadly and against a sector benchmark. This also allows us to determine if there are other areas where our projects should offer additional support. 

How do participants benefit? 

Across activities and impact measures, our evaluations highlight the benefits our projects provide to participants. The majority of participants report that they feel more confident about their ability to plan their journey into higher education. For example, in a recent survey of participants in our CHOICE programme, 91% of respondents were confident in their ability to make the right choice about their future. This had increased from 75% before the project. 

Similarly, the overwhelming majority of respondents reports enjoying our programmes. In a recent survey of Pathways to Banking and Finance participants, 93% of respondents said that they found the programme interesting, and 85% enjoyed their time. 

This positive impact is also found in student destinations. In our 2019 post-programme survey of participants in intensive outreach programmes, 88% of respondents held firm offers to universities; of these, 66% were for Russell Group universities, including LSE and Oxbridge. 

What future plans do we have for monitoring and evaluation? 

We want to keep building the evidence base for our work to ensure we are making decisions based upon the best possible information. 

We are: 

  • exploring how we can produce more causal evidence as part of our evaluations. This includes using quasi-experimental methods or randomised control trials to create a comparator group against which we can more clearly assess the achievements of our programme cohorts;

  • building relationships with LSE researchers to undertake targeted projects to investigate research questions around interventions and impact that are of interest to LSE and the sector more broadly;

  • continuing to review the targeting of our pre-entry activities, so we can ensure we are identifying key groups of students for our work;

  • further developing our aims and objectives to reflect a holistic understanding of the full range of stakeholders who benefit from WP activities. 

Find out more 

"LSE has a longstanding commitment to fair access and widening participation - recruiting students with the highest academic and intellectual potential, regardless of their background.   We are delighted that concerted effort and recent initiatives have helped turn more applications from talented but under-represented students into offers. We will continue to monitor and build on this work, seeking out the most effective ways we can attract exceptional students from all parts of society."

LSE Director, Minouche Shafik