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Is the University really widening participation?

Written by News

Data has been published relating to the demographic and socioeconomic attributes of new students coming to Newcastle University for the 2018/19 year.

The report shows that less than a quarter of new UK entrants to Newcastle University each year are from the North East. Alongside the relatively low population base, this is in part caused by the low proportion of students from the North East accessing higher education, with The UCAS End of Cycle Report showing that the North East has the lowest application rate to Higher Education (33.7%) and the second lowest entry rate (29.6%) in England, behind the South West. 23% of Newcastle admissions in the 2017/18 academic year came from the North East, compared to approximately half of all incoming students at Northumbria University and merely 7.8% at Durham University.

Transparency data published by the University on its website shows that, of the 4750 BAME students who applied to study full-time at Newcastle, 57.1% received an offer, compared to 76% of the 22,900 students who applied. The data shows that the proportion of BAME students commencing studies at Newcastle University has increased steadily over the last three years, with 11.2% of all new students being BAME in 2016/17 compared to 12.4% in 2018/19. This, however, falls significantly behind the national average for higher education providers, which was 31.1% in 2017/18. Closer analysis of the data for 2018/19 shows that there are significant disparities between different ethnic groups at Newcastle.  Asian students are becoming an increasingly large proportion of the total BAME student population at Newcastle at 52%, compared to 13% for black students. This could be attributed to the fact that nationally 58.5% of Black students from state-funded schools progress to higher education by age 19, compared to 78.7% of Chinese students; indeed, 72% of applicants classified as being of mixed ethnicity received offers to study at Newcastle, compared to 48% of Black students. The report also shows the success rates of students of different demographic and socioeconomic factor, as indicated by the rates of continuation of study and degree classifications. Data shows that in 2017/18 BAME students were 1.4% more likely to drop out of university compared to white students, and that white students had a 8.7% higher rate of graduating with a first or 2:1 than BAME students, a rise from 7.8% the year before. This shows that the degree attainment gap between BAME and white students is growing. In 2017/18, 20% of Black and 20% of Asian students received first class degrees, compared to 25% of white students, and 0% of white students (rounded down) graduated with a third class degree compared to 10% of Black students. The University has set the goal to reduce the attainment gap at Newcastle University between black and white students by 10% points by 2024-25.

The number of mature students has changed very little over the last three years, with students aged 25 or over representing just 5.6% of all new students in the 2018/19 academic year, compared to the national average of 31.1%. This could be because of the small provision of part-time undergraduates degrees at Newcastle compared to other higher education institutions. Mature students were also 8.5% less likely to graduate with a first or 2:1 than non-mature students, although this gap has been significantly decreasing over the past three years.

 The statistics show little change in the percent of new entrants coming from Low Participation Neighbourhoods (LPNs), which is calculated based on the proportion of the population from a postcode area undertaking higher education. The proportion of new students coming from LPNs has increased from 8.1% (399) in 2016/17 to 8.3% (423) in 2018/19, which is well below the national higher education average of 12%.

The statistics on the University’s website interestingly show a substantial gender attainment gap. Of those who graduated in the 2017/18 academic year, 90.6% of female students received a first class or 2:1 degree, compared to 81.3% of male students.

The transparency data published by the University and the Office for Students shows that Newcastle University is on the whole increasing access and participation rates for many underrepresented groups, and its Access and Participation Plan details its plans to make the University an increasingly diverse campus.

Last modified: 25th January 2020

One Response

  1. Mum says:

    Excellent article Grace Dean

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