Free school meal pupils were 8 per cent more likely to apply to university in 2014 as their application rate reached a new high of 18 per cent, an analysis published on 24 July reveals.
That was still half the application rate of those not receiving free school meals, which was 37 per cent, also a new high, it adds.
About 80,000 Year 13 pupils from low-income families – about one in eight students – were in the 2014 student cohort that was able to apply to university.
Female students receiving free school meals were 50 per cent more likely to apply to university than male students, Ucas says. In the rest of the student cohort, women were a third more likely to apply than men.
A separate analysis shows that demand for higher education also rose among all ethnic groups in English schools this year, setting new highs for most.
Application rates rose 1.2 per cent for white pupils, 1.3 per cent for mixed-race pupils and 1.1 per cent for black students. For Asian students, they rose 0.9 per cent and for other ethnic groups they went up 2.6 per cent.
The highest university application rate is from Chinese students, where 60.9 per cent applied for higher education. That compares with 31.4 per cent for white students, 39 per cent for black students and 44.7 per cent for Asian students
Application rates by ethnic group generally corresponded with GCSE attainment, Ucas says.