University access gap widens, and five other findings from today's Ucas report

But school leavers from disadvantaged backgrounds are still more likely than ever to enter higher education, research shows

Eleanor Busby

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A breakdown of the backgrounds of students entering higher education in September has been released today by the universities admissions body Ucas.

Here are five key points from Ucas’ End of Cycle Report 2017:

1. School leavers from disadvantaged backgrounds were more likely to enter higher education than last year – but the gap has grown

The highest number of disadvantaged 18-year-olds in England on record entered higher education in 2017, with an entry rate of 13.8 per cent – up 0.2 percentage points on 2016.

However, entry rates for more advantaged groups increased by 1 percentage point this year, to 53.1 per cent.

So the gap in entry rates between the most advantaged and most disadvantaged pupils actually widened by 0.8 percentage points, to 39.3 percentage points

Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, said: “Although our analysis shows that a record number of disadvantaged young people have entered higher education this year – with the greatest increase at higher tariff providers – gaps in participation remain wide.”

2. The entry rate for black students increased this year

The entry rate for 18-year-olds in the black ethnic group increased to 40.4 per cent – a 3.2 percentage-point rise on last year.

Entry rates for all ethnic groups increased this year – but the white ethnic group had the lowest entry rate of 29.3 per cent (a 1.5 percentage-point increase from last year).

This means the gap between the white ethnic group and all other ethnic groups continues to widen, and that those from the white ethnic group remain the least likely to enter HE.

3. The number of offers dropped for the first time in 5 years

Just over 1.9 million offers for applications made through Ucas were made in 2017, a slight fall of less than 0.1 per cent compared with 2016.

This was the first time the number of offers made has not increased since 2012.

The number of offers will partly be determined by the number of applications. This year, there were just under 2.8 million main scheme applications, 106,270 fewer than in 2016 – a fall of 3.7 per cent.

4. School leavers were more likely to receive an offer than before

The number of offers fell but the offer rates increased this year – meaning applications were more likely than ever before to receive an offer. Some 77.3 per cent of applications by 18-years-olds received an offer in 2017.

5.  Unconditional offers rise by 40 per cent

The number of unconditional offers made to 18-year-olds increased significantly, but remained a small proportion of all offers made (5.3 per cent).

This year, there were 51,615 unconditional offers made, a 40 per cent increase on 2016.

6. Three-quarters of applicants achieved lower grades than predicted

A-level applicants generally receive lower grades than they are predicted.

This year, just over a quarter (26.6 per cent) of placed 18-year-old applicants met or exceeded their predicted grades at A level.

But this is a slight rise on last year - where 25.6 per cent met or exceeded their predicted A level grades. 

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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