The United Kingdom’s (UK) goal of a 20% increase in participation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups in higher education (HE) by 2020 has not been met. Pakistani and Bangladeshi students are some of the most underrepresented BAME groups in UK HE institutions. This systematic review included 20 papers that identified barriers and facilitators towards participation in HE for Pakistani and Bangladeshi students in the UK. Using thematic analysis, two overarching themes were constructed: (i) the interplay of culturally expected roles on HE participation and (ii) belief that HE is vital for success. The review identified the importance of role models to challenge cultural values that restrict women from participating in HE. Many parents and children viewed HE as a route to personal and community success. The findings support the relevancy of social learning theory in driving change for models of widening participation.