The total Gypsy, Roma and Traveller population in the UK is likely to be underestimated, meaning that underrepresentation in higher education is not yet accurately established.
In 2018, 19 per cent of pupils from Irish Traveller backgrounds and 13 per cent from Gypsy and Roma backgrounds attained GCSEs in English and maths at grade 4 or above, compared with 64 per cent of pupils nationally.
This indicates that to address the underrepresentation of people from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in higher education, providers must act on barriers to school success.
Key barriers to higher education for these groups include:
- cultural barriers such as mobility, language, cultural norms, identity and a lack of belonging
- material barriers such as poverty, inadequate housing, homelessness and access to healthcare
- bullying, racism and discrimination in schools, higher education and the media
- parental lack of knowledge and experience of the UK education system - this is exacerbated for European Roma due to the differences in the system in the UK and Europe
- a lack of attention on addressing the needs of this group in policy, research and provision
- a lack of relevance in the higher education curriculum to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller cultures
- a lack of understanding about this culture among higher education staff
- concerns that university could be beyond their ability
- financial issues, such as a lack of knowledge regarding cost and available finance for higher education, reluctance to use official government support or loans and the impression that university is expensive and unaffordable.
Initial OfS analysis of providers’ 2020-21 to 2024-25 access and participation plans indicates that there is a need for a better understanding of the very specific and complex barriers faced by Gypsy, Roma and Travellers in accessing and succeeding in higher education.