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Achieving equity in higher education

Students ready to graduate from Sebeta Special Needs Education Teachers College, Ethiopia

Achieving equity in higher education

Project summary

Higher education is gaining momentum as a focal policy point in the international development agenda. The education Sustainable Development Goal includes a specific target on achieving equality of access to higher education for all. This research aims to assess the current state of higher education and prospects for the future, with a particular focus on extending equitable access. It is driven by two complementary strands, drawing on analysis of existing data.

The first strand is concerned with identifying who gets access to higher education in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular focus on poverty and gender.

The second strand focuses on the financing of higher education. The aim is to explore how funding and governance strategies can ensure that the benefits of good quality higher education reach all societal groups, against a backdrop of unequal distribution of government expenditure to the poorest groups, particularly at secondary and higher education levels.

Research team

Researchers: Professor Pauline Rose; Dr Sonia Ilie


April 2015 - July 2015


University of Cambridge


Understanding higher education access: Inequalities and early learning in low and lower‐middle‐income countries
Ilie, S., Rose, P. and Vignoles, A. 2021
British Educational Research Journal

Who benefits from public spending on higher education in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa?
Ilie, S. and Rose, P. 2017
Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education 48 (4)

Is equal access to higher education in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa achievable by 2030?
Ilie, S. and Rose, P. 2016
Higher Education 72, doi:10.1007/s10734-016-0039-3


Overcoming inequalities in access to higher education
Sonia Ilie and Pauline Rose, Commonwealth Education Partnerships, 2015/6

Other media

Poor children are being 'failed by the system' on road to higher education in lower-income countries
Faculty of Education News (PDF), 7 April 2021

University access ‘protected by wealth’ for richest globally
Times Higher Education, March 2021

Which countries are best at widening access to higher education?
Times Higher Education, December 2018

Education access problem ‘is poverty, not gender’
Times Higher Education, January 2017

Higher education access targets ‘set to be missed’ in the developing world
Times Higher Education, September 2016