TASO has commissioned State of Life, specialists in social impact analysis, to conduct a rapid evidence review focused on the evidence on how higher education (HE) benefits, or not, society and individuals. The review will focus specifically on evidence that HE addresses existing equality gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students.

TASO has been set up to generate, synthesise and disseminate high-quality evidence about effective practice in widening participation and student success. We strongly believe that through doing so, we can help a broader range of students to realise their potential and achieve better long-term outcomes, addressing a major barrier to social mobility in the process.

Much of our work is underpinned by the view that HE has a multitude of benefits to both individuals and society, but as yet the evidence base for this is limited. There is a particular gap in the evidence base on the value of HE in addressing inequalities in higher education.

As an organisation which is committed to high-quality research and evidence, it is essential that TASO properly understands the extent to which HE benefits, or not, society and individuals, with an emphasis on addressing existing equality gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students.

Working with State of Life, this project will aim to do just that.

Will Watt, Founder of State of Life:

The link between higher education and increased earning has been evidenced widely for years. The more important question is whether that is just kids from higher-earning families who would do well anyway?

This work will investigate whether the benefits of higher education survive robust, causal analysis that factors in the underlying socioeconomics of graduates. Does going to college and university really add social mobility to those from less advantaged backgrounds – especially when the increasing costs are factored in? In essence – what is, if any, the role of higher education in levelling up and what would this mean for a more progressive education policy?

We love investigating things like this. And already the findings are throwing up interesting questions.”

Will Watt, Founder of State of Life

As an organisation whose vision is to eradicate equality gaps in higher education, it is vital that we better understand the evidence on the positive social, cultural and economic value of HE for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as any evidence on disvalue. We are very excited to be working with State of Life who are committed to democratising and demystifying social impact analysis.”

Dr Helen Lawson, project lead, TASO

The research partner was selected after an open call for partners. All applications were assessed by the TASO Research and Evaluation Team.

This project commences in November 2021, with final deliverables due in January 2022.