Class, gender and ethnicity and your chances of getting to university…

How does your social class background, your gender and your ethnicity influence your chances of getting into university?

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There are still huge variations in the types of student who make it to university, if we analyse the Department for Education’s Higher Education data by ‘Free School Meals’ (a proxy for social class), gender and ethnicity. This update should be of clear relevant to the education module within A-level sociology.

We can see from the table above that there are stark differences by pupil characteristics.

  • 82% of non Free School Meal Chinese girls make it to university, compared to only 2% of girls of Free-School Meal Traveler of Irish Heritage background.
  • The above chart is very effective in showing the ethnic differences in university students, and with some interesting variations by FSM status – Black African FSM girls seem to do particular well, for example.
  • It’s also interesting to note that ‘White British’ students come very near the bottom of the table, with figures of around 40% HE participation for non FSM students, but only around 20 average for FSM White British pupils. The reason for singling out White students here is that the majority of pupils are white, so these figures are going to have most impact on the national average statistics.

The University FSM gap

There is still an 18.6% gap in Higher Education participation by Free School Meal status, this has decline by almost 1.5% points in the last decade, but this is slow progress!

The University Gender Gap

TBH I’m somewhat surprised to see the gender gap continuing apace, and it seems to be a steady increase year on year!

Other Higher Education inequalities

The latest report (see link below) also highlights inequalities by region (the biggest gap is in the South East, the smallest in London) and by Special Educational Need. See below for more details!

It also looks at the differences for ‘high tariff’ universities (the ones which ask for higher grades) which show starker differences.

Widening Participation Targets

The Office for Students has been campaigning to get universities to widen participation by reducing the above gaps. Most universities have in fact pledged to try and half some of these gaps by 2025 for example – if they succeed this would mean only a 10% gap between FSM and non FSM pupils.

However, this would mean fewer middle class students getting into university, assuming that more places are not created.

Sources/ find out more

Department for Education – Widening Participation in Higher Education

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