London’s Calling

The impact of global economic changes has been to boost the premium attached to high skills. As the UK’s most globalised city, London has been particularly exposed to the transformations towards a skilled economy. The response, in a process that has been mirrored across the UK and much of the world, has been a sharp rise in the number of Londoners obtaining degree level qualifications. Higher education has shifted from being a minority pursuit to a mass expectation, yet the prevailing social inequality in London suggests that is it not accessible to all.

London’s Calling analyses data from 2010 UCAS applications to map the pattern of access to higher education in London today; it analysis residence based data and examines data from 181 London schools. It also uses a new behavioural economics framework to understand the key drivers of young people’s decision about applying for university. The report finds that there are disparities between groups from different backgrounds in both the likelihood of applying and the likelihood of being accepted for university, but that in some schools and borough young people from poorer background are outperforming their peers.

The report highlights that it is economically important to further expand London’s pool of high skill workers. In an increasingly skills centric economy, Government needs to better understand how decisions about participating in London are made by young people from all backgrounds. London must build on its efforts to improve access to higher education to give both Londoners, and London, a better chance in the race to the top.