Damned statistics 1

June 21, 2002

Your editorial ( THES , June 7) rightly calls for extra resources to achieve a 50 per cent participation rate, but your analysis of postcode premiums elsewhere demonstrates the inadequacy of this approach to the allocation of such funding.

Not one of the top ten recipients of postcode premiums is in London. The Higher Education Funding Council for England's tables for students from "low-participation" areas showed all London universities to be recruiting fewer such students than their benchmark. Thus Hefce now also publishes alternative "location-adjusted benchmarks".

Fee status is a much better proxy for students' family income, with reasonable differentiation between institutions. For example, 65 per cent of University of North London students receive full fee remission (residual family income in 2000-01 of less than £20,000 or partner's income of less than £17,000) compared with 33 per cent nationally.

Bob Gilchrist
The Statistics, OR and Probabilistic Methods Research Centre
University of North London

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