Applications to UK universities from young people in the most deprived areas of England have risen by 6 per cent on the previous year, while the number from the most advantaged areas has dropped by 1 per cent, Ucas figures show.
For the first time, Ucas has released data on the backgrounds of UK applicants made by the 30 June deadline, the final deadline before the clearing stage begins, based on their level of disadvantage.
Using the government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation, the data show that the number of English 18-year-olds applying from quintile 1 – classed as the most deprived areas – rose from 36,560 in 2018 to 38,770 in 2019.
In contrast, the number of 18-year-old applicants from quintile 5 – the least deprived areas – fell from 63,530 to 63,180.
Overall, there were 418,940 applications from English-domiciled students in 2019, down 1 per cent from 421,610 in 2018.
The Office for Students has called for universities, particularly the UK’s most selective institutions, to erase the entry gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students and to accept applicants from the least advantaged areas with lower grades.
Using the IMD measure, the Ucas statistics show that applications by English mature students – an age group where disadvantaged numbers outweigh advantaged – fell for both the most and least deprived, by 3 and 6 per cent, respectively.
The number of mature student applications has been dropping since the 2012 changes to tuition fees.
For the first time, the number of 19-year-old English applicants from the most deprived areas, 16,030, outnumbered applicants from the least deprived areas, which fell by 6 per cent to 15,880.
Across all age groups, the number of applicants from the most deprived areas grew by 2 per cent to 84,940 in 2019, and the number of applicants from the least deprived areas dropped by 3 per cent to 93,740.
In Scotland, applications from the most deprived areas increased by 3 per cent while those from the least deprived areas declined by 5 per cent. Application numbers from the most deprived areas in Wales grew by 1 per cent and applications from the least deprived areas slipped by 4 per cent. Northern Ireland recorded drops in applicants by 4 and 6 per cent, respectively.
Ucas also released the data on the participation of local areas (POLAR) classification, another way of measuring disadvantage, which groups neighbourhoods across the UK based on the proportion of the young population that participates in higher education.
The figures showed a growth of 3 per cent for applications from 18-year-olds in the UK from the most disadvantaged areas, compared with a less than 1 per cent growth from the most advantaged areas.
Ucas found that 39.5 per cent of all 18-year-olds in England submitted an application, up from 38.1 per cent at the same point last year.
The number of applicants from outside the European Union rose by 8 per cent. The growth in applicants from China was particularly noticeable: rising by 30 per cent to 19,760.
This meant that, for the first time, there are more applicants from China than Northern Ireland, which saw applications fall by 4 per cent to 18,520. EU applicant numbers increased by 1 per cent.
Chris Skidmore, the universities minister, said it was “fantastic to see there are record rates of 18-year-olds in England, including an increase from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, applying to university, along with increasing numbers of applications from international students, too.”