UCAS postcode service aims to overcome social bias

October 22, 1999

Universities will be able to tell whether they are inadvertently discriminating against students from under-represented groups by using a service launched by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service next week, writes Alison Goddard.

The internet-based service will reveal how many students from under represented groups apply to an institution, how many receive offers and how many enrol.

Vice-chancellors had previously complained that they did not have access to the postcode analysis the funding councils use to allocate to institutions a 5 per cent premium for each student recruited from

an under-represented (below national average) group. The funding council analysis describes the population as coming from one of 40 postcode types. If a student is recruited from a type under-represented in higher education, the institution receives a bonus.

According to UCAS, the service will enable universities to break down applications to the extent that particular housing estates, parts of inner cities or less accessible rural areas could be targeted. Universities could work with specific local schools and careers offices to increase the number of local people applying to enter higher education.

"Despite the expansion of recent years, people from lower socio-economic groups are still woefully under-represented in higher education. The universities and colleges want to tackle that problem, and UCAS can now give them the tools to do that job," said Tony Higgins, chief executive of UCAS.

"The forecasting and planning service can pick out exactly which areas of towns and cities are sending people to a particular university or college, compared with its rivals.

"It will show the institution where to focus its recruitment work, with a view to long-term social change in its student population," he added.

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