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CEE/Education and skills discussion paper

Access, Choice and Participation in Higher Education


Geographical distance between parental home and college poses a potential barrier to higher education entry, and could be a deciding factor when choosing between institutions. Some students may be constrained in their education choices because they cannot afford to leave home, or have personal or cultural reasons to remain close to their family. This paper provides quantitative evidence on these issues using administrative data on a cohort of university entrants in England, which includes both individual and school level information. Our findings are that geographical distance has little or no impact on the decision to participate, but has a strong influence on institutional choice. Institution attendance probabilities fall with distance from home, with an elasticity of -1. Small, but behaviourally important differences between demographic groups have implications for the sorting of students across institutions. There are also implications for the spatial distribution of human capital, because the quality of students’ education is linked to the quality of institutions that are close to home.


Steve Gibbons and Anna Vignoles

January 2009     Paper Number CEEDP0101

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This CEE/Education and skills discussion paper is published under the centre's Education and skills programme, Education and skills programme.