Geography and race affect university attendance

Data show whites and pupils outside London less likely to aim for, or undertake, higher study

February 13, 2014

Source: Alamy

‘Better grades’: black and ethnic minority teens ‘more likely to go to university’

Black and ethnic minority teenagers in England are far more likely to attend university than their white classmates, owing to their better grades and greater desire for higher education.

This is the view of a report that draws on a longitudinal study of 16,000 young people, which indicates that ethnic minority children are more likely to aspire to attend university, and to achieve high GCSE scores, than white children.

That led to higher university admission rates for ethnic minority pupils, the Higher Education Careers Service Unit report says.

Pupils in London – white and non-white – are also more likely to express interest in higher education, attain good GCSE results and attend university than peers elsewhere.

Regional Differences in University Admission in England, a report by Hecsu researcher Andrew McCulloch, uses data from a cohort study of children who were born in the 1989-90 academic year and were interviewed each year, starting in 2004 and ending in 2010.

The data on pupils’ aspirations show marked differences along ethnic and geographic lines, with 93 per cent of non-white Londoners saying they wished to attend university, compared with 80 per cent of their white fellow Londoners.

That figure dropped to just below 70 per cent for white children living outside the capital and about 85 per cent for their non-white peers, and this was echoed in lower rates of university attendance.

“Higher aspirations…and the relatively good GCSE scores of non-white respondents in London might be able to explain the higher proportion…who go to university in London,” Hecsu’s report says.

The large number of universities in London might partially explain the higher aspirations of children in the capital, given their relative proximity to a university, it adds.

The difference in admission rates between white and ethnic minority students is an issue recently taken up by the universities and science minister David Willetts, who has argued that white working-class boys may soon need to become a protected minority because of low rates of progression to higher education.

But Graeme Atherton, head of AccessHE, which organises school outreach activities for London universities, said that more detail was needed. “We know there are lots of students from ethnic minority groups that face challenges and do not achieve their potential that could take them to university,” Dr Atherton said.

“I think we also need to drill down into the figures to see which ethnic groups are not engaging with higher education,” he added.

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