Disadvantage gap at top universities widens

Students not receiving free school meals were three times more likely to enter higher tariff universities, study shows

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The gap between the numbers of disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students entering top universities widened last year, new figures show.

Today's Ucas data also reveals that while white students have the lowest entry rate overall to higher education, black students have a lower entry rate when it comes to higher-tariff universities.

"Higher tariff" universities are those that have the highest average levels of attainment of 18-year-olds that they have admitted in recent years.

According to the new figures published today by Ucas, the entry rate gap for such universities between students who received free school meals and those who did not widened in 2018.

Students not in receipt of meals were 3.77 times more likely to enter higher tariff universities than free school meals students – an increase from a value of 3.70 times in 2017.

Despite the increase from 2017, the gap has decreased since 2006, when those not in receipt of the meals were 5.78 times more likely to enter than free school meals students.

Widening access to university

Taking all universities as a whole, in 2018 the proportion of students who received free school meals going into higher education increased to 17.3 per cent from 16.9 per cent in 2017.

The overall entry rate gap between free school meals students and their peers narrowed slightly, with the latter 1.98 times more likely to enter higher education, compared with 2017.

However, the gap remains wider than that seen in 2015, when those not in receipt of meals were 1.95 times more likely to enter higher education.

Looking at access to higher education across different ethnic groups, pupils recorded as Chinese continue to have the highest entry rate to university, while those classed as white have the lowest.

For black students, entry to higher education has reached its highest point since 2006, with 41.2 per cent of black students going to university in 2018. Black students are now 1.39 times more likely to enter higher education than white students.

However, when it comes to higher tariff universities, black students have the lowest entry rate.

In recent years, high tariff institutions such as Oxbridge have been criticised for not admitting a greater proportion of black students.

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