Risk 7: Insufficient personal support

Students may not receive sufficient personalised non-academic support or have sufficient access to extracurricular activities to achieve a positive outcome.


Although many students are able to receive personal support from external sources, experiences of this will be different for some students. This may have a negative impact on their wellbeing and academic success.

Non-academic support comes in many different forms, from personal tutors or mentors to access to sports facilities or accommodation support.

For many students, extracurricular activities are a core part of the higher education experience but these are not equally accessible.

Experiencing this risk is likely to impact a student on-course and at the progression stages of their education.

  • Students who do not receive sufficient personal support on course, including (but not limited to) mentoring, advice, counselling and access to extracurricular activities may be more likely to report lower wellbeing and/or sense of belonging, experience poor mental health, achieve lower-than-expected on-course attainment and lower continuation rates. These may be experienced for all students, but may be experienced more acutely by students with certain characteristics.
  • Differential access to personal support relating to careers progression and/or less time to participate in enrichment activities may lead to differential outcomes in terms of progression into further study and employment.

Students who are:

  • prisoner
  • from a low household income
  • first in family
  • disabled
  • students reporting a mental health condition
  • mature
  • black
  • Asian
  • mixed ethnicity
  • other ethnicity
  • from a Gypsy, Traveller or Roma ethnic groups, or the Boater and Showmen communities
  • commuters
  • young carers
  • from a socio-economic background of 'never worked' or 'long term unemployed'
  • from a socio-economic background of 'small employers and own account workers'
  • from a socio-economic background of 'routine occupations' or 'semi-routine occupations'
  • estranged
  • care experienced
  • children in need
  • parents
  • LGBT
  • Christian
  • spiritual
  • Muslim
  • Buddhist
  • Hindu
  • Jewish
  • Sikh.

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. 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 scores for NSS questions relating to mental health and wellbeing 
  • increasing and/or high proportions of students accessing provider-run wellbeing and counselling services
  • increasing and/or high proportions of students accessing hardship funds
  • low on-course attainment rates
  • low continuation rates
  • differential outcomes in terms of progression to further study
  • differential outcomes in terms of progression to the labour market.

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

  • entrance tariff 
  • the extent of non-academic support provided.

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

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Advance HE (2020) ‘Equality in higher education: Statistical reports 2020’. (Accessed 12/12/2023)

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Anna E. Spengen, ‘The Experiences of First-Generation University Students’, 2013, p.1

Ann-Marie Bathmaker, Nicola Ingram & Richard Waller (2013) ‘Higher education, social class and the mobilisation of capitals: recognising and playing the game’, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 34:5-6, 723-743, DOI: 10.1080/01425692.2013.816041

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Baker, Zoe (2022) ‘The Care-Experienced Graduates' Decision-Making, Choices and Destinations Project: Phase one report’. Report. University of York

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Hauari, H. Hollingworth, K., Cameron, C (2019) ‘Getting it right for care experienced students in higher education’. UCL. 

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Published 29 March 2023
Last updated 18 January 2024
18 January 2024
We have published a list of references that informed this risk.

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