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White British pupils 'least likely to attend university'

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Children from all ethnic minority groups – even those statistically associated with academic underperformance – are more likely to go to university than their white British peers, a study has found.


Research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) shows that just 32.6 per cent of white British pupils who took their GCSEs in 2008 went on to university at ages 18 or 19. This compares with 67.4 per cent of pupils with an Indian background and 75.7 per cent from a Chinese background.


Those from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds also do better than white pupils, with more than 37 per cent going to university. Among Bangladeshis, the figure is 48.8 per cent.


When the researchers combined ethnic group and socioeconomic background, the differences were even more stark.


More than 81 per cent of Chinese pupils from the most affluent backgrounds go to university, compared with just 12.8 per cent of the poorest white British students.


The figures were among the findings of a study funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.


The research uses census data linking all pupils going to school in England with all students going to university in the UK, including data on more than half a million pupils. It focuses on students taking their GCSEs in 2007-08, who could have gone to university at age 18 in 2010-11 or age 19 in 2011-12.


In an article about the research on the IFS website, researchers Claire Crawford and Ellen Greaves wrote: "Differences in progression to university between individuals from different ethnic groups were particularly striking.


"We find that school pupils from all ethnic minority backgrounds are now, on average, significantly more likely to go to university than their white British counterparts."


Differences in how well pupils do at school could help to explain "some but not all" of the differences in participation rates, they said, noting that pupils of black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic origin "tended to perform worse" in national tests and exams than their white British counterparts.


The researchers called for more work to be carried out to understand the discrepancy.

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