Academic Year 2018/19

Widening participation in higher education

Published

Annual statistics on young peoples' participation in higher education by student characteristics, including eligibility for free school meals, gender, ethnicity, special educational need status and first language.

Figures are also provided on progression to higher education by school or college type, with breakdowns for high tariff higher education providers, POLAR disadvantage and Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework rating.


Headline facts and figures - 2018/19

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About this release

This statistics publication includes the latest information on measures of Widening Participation in Higher Education. 

These include estimates of progression to higher education (HE) by age 19 for state-funded pupils by personal characteristics and for A level and equivalent students, by school or college type, who progressed to HE by age 19 with breakdowns for high tariff higher education providers.

The pupil characteristic measures cover pupils from English state-funded schools and special schools who have progressed to HE in UK Higher Education Providers (including Alternative Providers) and English Further Education Colleges. 

The school type measure covers students from English schools and colleges at Key Stage 5 who have progressed to HE in UK Higher Education Providers (including Alternative Providers).

More information about HE provider tariff groupings can be found in the methodology document. Tariff groupings and mean tariff scores for each institution can be downloaded from the associated files at the top of this page.

The publication relies on matched data and all figures should be considered as estimates.

Prior Attainment   Variations in progression to HE by student characteristics can largely be explained by prior attainment. Prior attainment is not accounted for by the measures presented here.

 

Other Publications

There are other sources of information on Widening Participation in Higher Education. These are summarised in the methodology note. 

DfE also produce destination measures showing the percentage of students progressing to further learning at Higher Education Institutions:  

Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 Destinations

The destination measures differ from those presented here as they cover those entered for A levels or equivalent qualifications at ages 16 to 18 as opposed to age 17 for this publication. Destinations figures cover only those who stayed in the education destination for at least the first two terms, whereas this publication covers all entrants except those who dropped out in the first two weeks.

Free School Meals

Progression to Higher Education

14.2% of state-funded and special school pupils who received Free School Meals (FSM) at age 15 entered Higher Education by age 19 by 2005/06. This rose steadily to 26.2% for the 2016/17 cohort but has remained at 26.3% for the two most recent cohorts. 

The progression rate for pupils not receiving Free School Meals has risen from 33.5% for the 2005/06 cohort to 45.1% for the 2018/19 cohort. 

The gap between FSM and Non-FSM progression rates increased to 18.8 percentage points for the 2018/19 cohort, up 0.2 percentage points since last year and the largest gap since 2006/07.

Progression to High Tariff Higher Education

2.0% of state-funded and special school pupils who received Free School Meals (FSM) at age 15 entered high tariff HE by age 19 by 2009/10. The rate has increased to 4.1% for the 2018/19 cohort (up from 3.4% last year). 

The progression rate for pupils not receiving Free School Meals has risen from 9.4% for the 2009/10 cohort to 12.0% for the 2018/19 cohort (up from 11.2% last year). 

The gap between FSM and Non-FSM progression rates was 7.9 percentage points for the 2018/19 cohort, up 0.1 percentage points since last year.

Progression to Higher Education by Region and FSM Status

Progression to Higher Education

Progression to Higher Education varies significantly by region, in particular for those eligible for Free School Meals. 49.0% of those eligible for Free School Meals at age 15 in Inner London progressed to HE by age 19 compared to fewer than 18% in the South East and South West. London also has the highest progression rates for those not eligible for Free School Meals at age 15 – well over 50% in both Inner London (59.2%) and Outer London (57.1%). The South West has the lowest progression rate for those not eligible for Free School meals (40.0%).

Progression to High Tariff Higher Education

Progression to high tariff HE providers also varies by region. In London, 8.8% of those eligible for Free School Meals at age 15 progressed to high tariff HE by age 19 – a rate over four times higher than for the South West. London also has the highest progression rates for those not eligible for Free School Meals at age 15 – over 17%. The West Midlands has the lowest progression rate for those not eligible for Free School Meals  (9.4%).

Progression to Higher Education by Local Authority and FSM Status

As seen in the regional figures, London has the highest progression rates and this is particularly apparent for pupils eligible for Free School Meals. HE Progression rates are above 50% for FSM pupils in nine Local Authorities in London.

The gap in progression rates between FSM pupils and non-FSM pupils also tends to be much narrower in Local Authorities in London than in other areas. The progression rate gap tends to be highest in Local Authorities with a small proportion of pupils eligible for Free School Meals.

The pattern is similar when looking at progression to high tariff HE. In 10 Local Authorities in London the progression rate for Free School Meal pupils is above 10%, compared to 4.1% nationally. Progression rates to high tariff HE tend to be lowest in coastal regions in the South West in particular and the more disadvantaged areas in the North and Midlands.

Historical Data  Figures for earlier years can be downloaded from the associated files at the top of this page.

POLAR Disadvantage

POLAR  Participation of Local Areas (POLAR) is produced by the Office for Students (OfS) and classifies small areas across the UK into five groups according to their level of young participation in HE. Each of these groups represents around 20 per cent of young people and are ranked from quintile 1 (Q1) (areas with the lowest young participation rates, considered as the most disadvantaged) to quintile 5 (Q5) (highest young participation rates, considered most advantaged). This has been updated over the years to POLAR2, POLAR3 and POLAR4. This publication presents information using POLAR4.

Progression to Higher Education 

Pupils in the most advantaged quintile are more than twice as likely to progress to HE as those from the most disadvantaged quintile at 57.8% compared to 27.3% in 2018/19. There has been some narrowing of the gap over time with the progression rate for the most advantaged increasing by 6.6 percentage points since 2009/10 compared to 9.3 percentage points for the most disadvantaged.

Progression to High Tariff HE

The gap widens when looking at progression to high tariff HE. The most advantaged pupils were over five times more likely to progress to high tariff HE than the most disadvantaged pupils in 2018/19. However, this is down from over six times more likely in 2009/10.

Difference from UCAS figures  UCAS publish figures on entry to Higher Education by POLAR4 quintile. The figures differ from those in this publication as they are measuring slightly different things. The figures in this publication relate to state-funded and special school pupils only, whereas the UCAS figures include students who attended other types of school. The UCAS figures relate to acceptances, whereas the figures in this publication relate to those identified as participating in HE, excluding entrants who dropped out in the first two weeks. UCAS figures generally relate to entry to HE at age 18 rather than by age 19.

Gender

Progression to Higher Education

48.0% of female pupils entered Higher Education by age 19 by 2018/19 compared to 37.3% of males. The gap in progression rates between males and females rose from 10.2 to 10.7 percentage points between 2017/18 and 2018/19.

Progression to High Tariff HE

12.0% of female pupils entered high tariff HE by age 19 by 2018/19 compared to 9.8% of males. The gap in progression rates between males and females has fallen from 2.3 to 2.2 percentage points in the latest year.

Ethnic Group

Progression to Higher Education

Progression to Higher Education varies significantly by ethnic group. Chinese pupils are the most likely to progress to HE by age 19 at 79.3% in 2018/19, whilst White pupils are the least likely to progress to HE at 38.3% in 2018/19. Black pupils have seen the greatest increase in the proportion entering HE – from 44.1% in 2009/10 to 59.1% in 2018/19, however the progression rate has declined for the first time in the past decade in the latest year.

Progression to High Tariff HE

Chinese pupils are also by far the most likely to progress to high tariff HE by age 19 at 39.0% in 2018/19, whilst Black pupils are the least likely to progress to high tariff HE at 9.8% in 2018/19, although this rate has more than doubled since 2009/10.

Detailed Ethnic Group  Figures showing detailed ethnic group can be downloaded from the associated files at the top of this page.

Free School Meals, Gender and Ethnic Group

Progression to Higher Education

Progression rates are highest for Chinese pupils regardless of gender or free school meal eligibility. Chinese females who were not eligible for free school meals had the highest progression rate at 83.5% in 2018/19. Indian, Black African and Bangladeshi pupils also have consistently high progression rates regardless of free school meal status and gender. The lowest progression rates are for Traveller of Irish Heritage and Gypsy Roma pupils.

Progression rates are also particularly low for White British pupils who were eligible for free school meals with rates of 19.4% for females and 12.7% for males in 2018/19. The progression rate for White British males who were eligible for free school meals has fallen for the first time since 2011/12. In contrast the rate for females has increased by 0.9 percentage points in the latest year.

Progression to High Tariff HE

Progression rates to high tariff HE providers are highest for Chinese pupils regardless of gender or free school meal eligibility. This is particularly apparent for pupils who were eligible for free school meals where Chinese pupils are more than three times as likely as other pupils to progress to high tariff HE.

Black Caribbean pupils are the least likely of the main ethnic groups to progress to high tariff HE.  The progression rate of 5.2% is less then half the overall national figure (10.9%). The progression rate has seen some improvement over time - the rate for males has more than doubled since 2009/10 and now stands at 4%. The rate for females has increased from 3.5% to 6.5% over the same period, although it did fall slightly in the latest year.

Regional Figures  Progression rates by Free School Meals status, Ethnic Group, Gender and Region can be downloaded from the associated files at the top of this page.

Special Educational Needs (SEN)

SEN Support  From 2015, the School Action and School Action Plus categories have combined to form one category of SEN support. Extra or different help is given from that provided as part of the school’s usual curriculum. The class teacher and special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO) may receive advice or support from outside specialists. The pupil does not have a statement or education, health and care plan.

Statement of special educational needs (statement) or Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)  A pupil has a statement or EHCP when a formal assessment has been made. A document is in place that sets out the child’s need and the extra help they should receive.

Progression to Higher Education

The progression rates for pupils with Special Education Needs lag well behind those for other pupils. Just 8.9% of pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or Statement of SEN progressed to HE by age 19 by 2018/19 compared to 20.6% of pupils on SEN Support and 47.3% for pupils with no SEN.

The progression rate for pupils with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or Statement of SEN increased in the latest year, whilst the rates fell for pupils on SEN Support and pupils with no identified SEN. Some of this change may reflect changes in the composition of the SEN group over time.

Progression to High Tariff HE

Just 1.2% of pupils with and EHCP/Statement and 3.3% of those on SEN support progressed to high tariff HE in 2018/19 despite an increasing trend since 2009/10. The progression rate for other pupils was 12.5%.

First Language

English as an additional language  A pupil is recorded to have English as an additional language if they are exposed to a language at home that is known or believed to be other than English.

Progression to Higher Education

A majority of pupils with a first language other than English progress to HE by age 19. 58.0% of pupils with a first language other than English progressed to HE by age 19 by 2017/18 compared to 40.0% of pupils with English as a first language. The progression rates have increased by 7.2 percentage points and 7.8 percentage points respectively since 2009/10.

Progression to High Tariff HE

Pupils with a first language other than English are also more likely to progress to high tariff HE by age 19 at 13.3% in 2018/19 compared to 10.5% of pupils with English as a first language. 

Children in Need

Children in Need   A child in need is defined under the Children Act 1989 as a child who is unlikely to reach or maintain a satisfactory level of health or development, or their health or development will be significantly impaired without the provision of services, or the child is disabled. 

This publication presents figures for Children in Need at 31st March for state-funded and special school pupils who were 15 at the start of the academic year.

Note that Looked After Children are a subset of Children in Need.

Progression to Higher Education

11% of Children in Need at age 15 progressed to HE by age 19 by 2018/19 compared to 43% of all other pupils. The progression rate has fallen from 12% in 2017/18 whilst the rate is unchanged for all other pupils.

Progression to High Tariff HE

The progression rate to high tariff HE for Children in Need was 2% in 2018/19. The rate is higher than each of the previous three years but remains well below the 11% of all other pupils who progressed to high tariff HE. 

Looked After Children

A child is looked after by a local authority under the Children Act 1989 if they fall into one of the following: is provided with accommodation, for a continuous period of more than 24 hours [Children Act 1989, Section 20 & 21]; is subject to a care order [Children Act 1989, Part IV]; or is subject to a placement order. 

This publication presents figures for Children looked after continuously for 12 months or more at 31st March for state-funded and special school pupils who were 15 at the start of the academic year.

Note that Looked After Children are a subset of Children in Need.

Progression to Higher Education

Just 13% of pupils who were looked after continuously for 12 months or more at 31st March 2015 progressed to HE by age 19 by 2018/19 compared to 43% of all other pupils. Progression rates for children looked continuously for 12 months or more increased in the latest year after a slight fall in 2017/18.

Progression to High Tariff HE

The progression rate to high tariff HE for children looked after continuously for at least 12 months has remained at 1% since 2009/10, whilst 11% of other pupils progressed to high tariff HE in 2018/19. 

The Department also publishes figures on entry to HE in the Children looked after in England including adoption publication. The progression rates are lower than presented here as those statistics relate to care leavers known to local authorities. This publication uses a different cohort – children looked after continuously for 12 months or more at 31st March for pupils in state-funded and special schools who were 15 at the start of the academic year – and uses matched census data to identify HE participation by age 19 rather than for a single age.

School Type (Key Stage 5)

Changes to Key Stage 5 cohort 

Due to qualification reforms and methodological changes in the way the Key Stage 5 cohort is counted, it is not possible to directly compare figures for HE progression rates from 2017/18 with earlier years. 

For students turning 19 from 2017/18 (KS5 from 2015/16 onwards), only students who entered approved level 3 qualifications (designated as academic, applied general or tech levels) are included in the statistics. In addition, the HE progression rate estimates for 2017/18 onwards will include students entering qualifications equivalent to one AS level or higher. In earlier years students were only included where they entered with qualifications equivalent to one A level or higher. 

Changes in the framework around A-level equivalent qualifications have also led to some courses no longer being approved, effectively removing some students from our latest estimates or affecting them due to schools and colleges changing their practices in response to government reforms. These changes are described in more detail here: 

A level and other 16 to 18 results

We cannot quantify the impact of these changes on the progression estimates, though anticipate that they would have an impact on progression rates compared to previous years. 

It should also be noted that because the state sector includes a greater range of qualifications that students are studying for (e.g. for those aged 17 in 2015/16, 94.0% of independent sector students studied A-levels compared to 75.8% in the state sector) these changes will have a much greater impact on HE progression rates for state school/college students. 

Figures for 2017/18 onwards are therefore NOT directly comparable with earlier years

A Level and Equivalent Students

Progression to Higher Education

66.3% of those who studied A level and equivalent qualifications in state schools and colleges at age 17 in 2016/17 progressed to Higher Education by age 19 by 2018/19. For independent school and college pupils the progression rate is 84.7%, 18.5 percentage points higher than for state schools and colleges. This gap is down slightly from 18.6 percentage points last year.

Progression to High Tariff Higher Education

The progression rate for state school and college pupils to high tariff Higher Education Providers was 19.4% for the 2018/19 cohort. The equivalent progression rate for independent school and college pupils was 56.4%, a gap of 37 percentage points (down from 38.8 percentage points last year).

Changes to A level cohort  

As noted above, in the latest two years the cohort includes students who took a single AS level (as well as those combining one AS level with vocational qualifications). We would expect these students to have lower progression rates than in the past when the threshold for inclusion was at least one A level. The change has most impact on the state-funded students, who are more likely to study AS levels. 

Figures from 2017/18 onwards are therefore NOT directly comparable with earlier years.

A Level Students

Progression to Higher Education

85.5% of pupils who took A levels in Independent schools progressed to HE, 10.6 percentage points higher than for pupils in state-funded schools/colleges (74.9%). These figures are unchanged from last year.

Progression to High Tariff Higher Education

The gap however remains large when focusing on those progressing to high tariff HE. 56.4% of pupils who took A levels in Independent schools progressed to high tariff HE, 31.6 percentage points higher than those in state-funded schools/colleges (24.8%). This gap is down from 33.8 percentage points last year.

State-funded School Type  Figures for Selective State and Other State schools can be downloaded from the associated files at the top of this page.

Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF)

Teaching Excellence Framework  The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) was introduced to assess, recognise and reward high quality teaching and student outcomes in higher education. Universities are awarded a rating of Gold, Silver or Bronze taking into account factors such as student satisfaction, employment outcomes and retention rates. 

This publication includes the latest TEF rating held by providers as at June 2020. There are 166 providers covered by the publication with a TEF rating. Of these 36% are rated Gold, 48% Silver, 12% Bronze and 5% with a provisional award.

HE students who attended non-selective state schools are less likely to study at HE providers with a Gold award than those who attended selective state and independent schools.

40.2% of HE students who attended non-selective state schools studied at HE providers with a Gold award in 2018/19 compared to 50.9% of those from selective state schools and 51.2% of those from independent schools.

The comparison is much closer when looking at study at HE providers with Gold or Silver awards. HE students who attended selective state schools are the most likely to attend Gold or Silver providers at 94.2%. This compares to 92.0% for those who attended independent schools and 90.9% of those who attended non-selective state schools. However, this partly reflects the fact that students who attended independent schools are more likely to study at providers who do not currently have a TEF rating.

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Methodology

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Official statistics

These are Official Statistics and have been produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

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