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HE access across the UK for the most disadvantaged: early signs from UCAS

August 13, 2015

UCAS has published its first set of figures relating to access to HE by background – see here.  These figures cover 18 year old applicants placed by UCAS so far, grouped using  the POLAR3 classification – more on that here.

These figures still have scope to change, particularly given the uncertainties around the effect of lifting the cap on numbers in England.  Anything at this stage is therefore no more than an indication of things to watch. With that caveat, the figures for today show that, compared to the same point last year:

  • progress in relation to POLAR3 Quintile 1 (the 20% most disadvantaged) seems to have stalled in Scotland;
  • the figures have slipped back in Wales;
  • there has been some improvement in England so far: the decision to abolish grants there from next year for new entrants may be having some effect,  creating an incentive to avoid delaying entry for those from poorer backgrounds;
  • the largest progress has been in Northern Ireland, although this comes on the back of a dip in the figures last year – quite a lot of this improvement is simply making up for that.

The tables below are taken from UCAS  and cover: the absolute number of 18 year olds from POLAR3 Q1 who have been placed so far; the entry rate for that group, which takes into account year-on-year changes in total number in the age group; and the difference in the entry rate of the most advantaged and least advantaged 20% (for example, in Scotland this year, those in Quintile 5 – the most advantaged – have an entry rate which is 363% of (or 3.63 times higher than) those in the most disadvantaged 20%).  The lower this last figure, the smaller the gap in entry rates between young people from different backgrounds: if access initiatives are working, year on year this number should fall.

 

2014 2015 Change
Q1 Nos Eng

17660

18440

4%
NI

360

410

14%
Scotland

570

550

-4%
Wales

1280

1230

-4%
Q1 Entry rate Eng

14.6%

15.1%

3%
NI

11.1%

12.4%

12%
Scotland

9.5%

9.5%

0%
Wales

14.0%

13.6%

-3%
Q5:Q1 Eng

255

249

-2%
NI

343

304

-11%
Scotland

361

363

1%
Wales

261

278

7%

 

The picture over the longer term remains of general growth in the entry rate for the most disadvantaged young people in every part of the UK.  The question these figures beg is whether, stripped of the effects of catching up with a less good previous year (NI) or possible short term incentives (England), the sort of growth seen over recent years will continue, or whether the signals are from Scotland and Wales that it might be starting to flatten.  It will be a year or two more before that will be clear and a few weeks yet before even this year’s picture comes into focus.

 

 

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