Two in five UK universities see decline in freshers from state schools

Ruby Story Dartford reports on the decrease in university applications from state school students.

Ruby Story Dartford
1st March 2021
Image: Wikimedia Commons
The number of admissions from state educated students has fallen for the first time in five years.

New data has revealed that more than two in five UK universities saw a decline in the number of state school students choosing to start courses in the year 2019/20, a large number of which were from the Russell Group.

For the first time in half a decade, the proportion of state educated students at UK universities is now under 90%, with Newcastle recognised as one of these.

Official data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) highlights that over a third of the top institutions have seen a decline in the those admitted from the state sector. Analysis of the data reveals nine are Russell Group universities, those traditionally recognised as having the most selective initiation process compared to other UK institutions. 

From the Russel Group, Edinburgh, Exeter and Durham were amongst those with the lowest proportion of state school students, to which their figures fell from the previous year.

Of the 24 Russel Group institutions, 10 (41.7%) saw a decline in the number of state educated students from the academic years 2018/19 and 2019/20.

At several institutions, less than a third of UK students were state educated in 2019, compared to other universities to which all attendees were from state schools.

Further, in the academic year 2019/20, of all UK entrants, 11.8% of students were from ‘low participation neighbourhoods’, only slightly higher than 2012 data. Whilst this figure was up 0.4% from 2018/2019, the statistics follow increasing pressure from the government and regulator to widen participation and encourage all backgrounds to apply for university. 

It simply isn't acceptable that the proportion of state school pupils at some universities is so low

Geoff Barton, General Secretary at the ASCL

The General Secretary of the Association of the School and College Leaders (ASCL), Geoff Barton stated, "It simply isn’t acceptable that the proportion of state school pupils at some universities is so low. We are aware that the higher education sector has done a great deal of work in endeavouring to widen participation but there is clearly a long way to go in certain institutions.’’ 

Alongside this, a Russel Group spokesman stated, "The proportion of students entering from state schools and from low participation neighbourhoods increased slightly across the Russell Group as a whole in 2019/20.

"Our members are working hard to increase that number further, and undertake a wide range of school outreach activities, including mentoring schemes, summer schools and campus visits". 

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AUTHOR: Ruby Story Dartford
Journalist Student studying at Newcastle University.

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