Moving on up: ‘first in family’ university graduates in England

Oxford Review of Education / August 2020

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This paper provides the first quantitative analysis on ‘first in family’ (FiF) university graduates in the UK. Using a nationally representative dataset that covers a recent cohort in England, the authors identify the proportion of FiF young people at age 25 as 18%, comprising nearly two-thirds of university graduates. Comparing groups with no parental higher education the authors find that ethnic minorities and those with higher levels of prior attainment are more likely to become a FiF, while those who are FiF are more likely to study Law, Economics and Management and less likely to study other Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities than students whose parents are graduated. The authors also find evidence that FiF students are less likely to graduate from elite universities and are at greater risk of dropout in general, even after prior educational attainment and socioeconomic status are taken into account.