Risk 6: Insufficient academic support

Students may not receive sufficient personalised academic support to achieve a positive outcome.


Whatever the grades that a student has when they enter higher education, different students may require different levels of academic support.

This may be due to:

  • their individual circumstances, such as personal health issues, special educational needs (SEN) diagnosis or home difficulties that impact on a student’s ability to engage to the fullest extent with their academic studies
  • differences in educational experiences before university that did not equip them with the same level of relevant skills or knowledge as other students.
  • If a student does not receive the necessary personalised academic support, they may achieve a lower degree attainment than they could have achieved, or they may withdraw from a course.
  • Students may also experience poor mental health.
  • Students may have less time to devote to non-academic activities than other students.
  • These may subsequently further impact on progression rates through to graduate study or to employment.

Students who are or have:

  • no parental experience of higher education
  • been eligible for free school meals in the past six years
  • from the following ethnic groups: Asian or Asian British – Bangladeshi and Black or Black British – African students; Black or black British – Caribbean and Black or black British – Other; Mixed – white and black Caribbean; Mixed white and black African; black or black British - African students; Asian or Asian British – Bangladeshi; Mixed – other or Asian or Asian British – Pakistani; Gypsy, Roma or Traveller ethnic groups
  • mature
  • estranged
  • care experienced
  • reporting a mental health condition
  • reporting their gender identity not the same as the sex registered at birth
  • reporting a sexual orientation reported as 'Other' (not identifying as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual)
  • reporting a sexual orientation of lesbian, gay or bisexual
  • reporting a religion or belief as ‘Spiritual’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Sikh’, ‘Buddhist’ or ‘Christian’
  • reporting a social or communication impairment (disability)
  • socioeconomic background of 'never worked' or 'long-term unemployed'; 'Routine occupations' or 'Semi-routine occupations'; 'Lower supervisory and technical occupations'
  • male
  • reporting multiple or other impairments (disability)
  • reporting sensory, medical or physical impairments (disability)
  • reporting cognitive or learning difficulties (disability).

Note that the ordering does not denote a scale or ranking system.


It is important to consider how different student characteristics might interact with each other, and with school and areas-based characteristics. Providers may also wish to consider whether the mode of study heightens a risk.

For example, students from black or Asian groups who have also been eligible for free school meals in the past six years are more likely to be affected by this risk than students from black or Asian groups who have not been eligible for free school meals in the past six years.

It is therefore recommended that providers consider intersectionality closely when looking at their own data.

For different groups of students, the impact of these risks that are visible in data might be:

  • low continuation and low completion rates
  • low on-course attainment rates
  • low on-course attainment rates compared with others who are studying the same course
  • low NSS results for questions relating to academic support (such as academic support; learning resources; learning community; mental health, assessment and community)
  • internal data on academic student support data (such as showing low uptake of academic support coupled with low attainment and/or low continuation rates)
  • lower progression rates to further study
  • lower progression rates into employment.

It is important to note that there are also likely to be impacts that are not visible through data.

Although this is a national risk, the extent to which it is seen at each provider may depend on factors such as:

  • entrance tariff
  • whether the provider recruits nationally or locally
  • the extent of academic support provided.

We therefore encourage providers to examine their own data and establish if this risk to equality of opportunity affects their current or potential student population.

Published 29 March 2023

Describe your experience of using this website

Improve experience feedback
* *

Thank you for your feedback