Social inequality in access to higher education remains a challenge to both politicians and institutional leaders and has for a long time been a major issue in the education policy agenda of many nations as well as the European Commission. The 2022 EU Report "Towards equity and in higher education in Europe" (Eurydice report) states that "The social dimension should be central to higher education strategies at the system and institutional level, as well as at the EHEA and the EU level. Strengthening the social dimension of higher education and fostering equity and inclusion to reflect the diversity of society is the responsibility of a higher education system as a whole and should be regarded as a continuous commitment." (p. 18)
At the same time, the growing diversity of students, i.e. the growth in numbers of non-traditional students and students from underrepresented groups, such as mature students, students with children, students with disability, and students with non-academic family backgrounds remains a challenge to the organisation of teaching and learning.
Reliable data are a necessary precondition for an evidence-based improvement of the social dimension of higher education. The Eurydice report indicates that on many student characteristics only a few European countries have administrative data (p.50). Up to now, there are also no systematic and comprehensive European (nor global) data on the level of individual higher education institutions.
The 2022 edition of U-Multirank started to investigate the enrolment of some of the categories of 'underrepresented students:
Here we focus on the first two categories. The choice for these two emerged from several UMR experts and stakeholder consultations, in which a priority regarding these categories was discussed.
In addition to the two categories of underrepresented students, U-Multirank also collected data on the outreach programmes of higher education institutions, targeted toward various groups of underrepresented students.