Entry gap between state and private pupils widens after £9K fees

Most selective universities under fire for ‘glacial’ progress on widening access

August 3, 2016
Pole climbing competition, Royal Welsh Show
Source: Alamy

The gap between the proportion of state and private school pupils entering higher education has widened since the introduction of £9,000 fees, according to government figures.

An estimated 62 per cent of those who studied A levels and equivalents in state schools at age 17 in 2011-12 progressed to higher education by age 19 in 2013-14, according to figures on widening participation in England published by the Department for Education on 3 August.

For independent school and college pupils, the estimated progression rate was 85 per cent.

The government trebled fees to £9,000 in 2012-13.

The proportion of state pupils entering higher education by age 19 stood at 67 per cent in 2011-12, fell to 66 per cent in 2012-13 and to 62 per cent in 2013-14.

The proportion of private school pupils entering higher education was static at 85 per cent over that period.

That meant that the participation gap between private and state pupils widened from 18 percentage points to 23 over that time.

The figures also show that 22 per cent of free school meal pupils aged 15 in 2009-10 entered higher education by age 19 in the 2013-14 academic year. That compared with 39 per cent of non-free school meal pupils who did so: a gap of 17 percentage points.

“The gap was 18 percentage points for the 2009-10 to 2011-12 cohorts and 17 percentage points for the 2012-13 cohort,” says the DfE analysis.

On the proportions of private and state pupils progressing to the “most selective” institutions, the figures say that 64 per cent of private school pupils did so by age 19 in 2013-14, compared with 23 per cent of those from state schools.

That gap between private and state pupils has risen from 39 percentage points in 2011-12 to 41 in 2013-14.

Pam Tatlow, chief executive of MillionPlus, the association of modern universities, said: “Despite the marginal decline in the number of students in receipt of free school meals progressing to higher education shown in [the] figures, we very much welcome the upward trend in the progression of these and other students to higher education.

“This progress would not have been possible without the contribution of modern universities to widening participation. The pace of change in the so-called selective universities remains both glacial and small in terms of the number of admissions of students from widening participation backgrounds. These figures confirm that modern universities are key to the achievement of the new prime minister’s ambitions to improve social mobility.”

Ms Tatlow suggested that the “current performance measure which links progression to the 30 most selective universities was introduced by [former education secretary] Michael Gove. As such, it is a fairly crude and reductive measure which undervalues the achievements of the overwhelming majority of students and schools as well as the universities to which these students progress.”

She said that the Department for Education should reconsider the way it measures social mobility.


You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

sitting by statue

Institutions told they have a ‘culture of excluding postgraduates’ in wake of damning study

A face made of numbers looks over a university campus

From personalising tuition to performance management, the use of data is increasingly driving how institutions operate