Latest Hesa figures on widening participation released

The figures show how many students from POLAR4 neighbourhoods were accepted to English providers

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) has released new data on students from disadvantaged backgrounds in higher education.

The latest statistics show that Teesside, Staffordshire, Sunderland, Hull and Derby universities had the largest percentage of young students from low participation neighbourhoods (POLAR4) in 2018/19 – these figures exclude mature students. According to the agency’s figures, Teesside accepted more than one in three first-time undergraduate students from POLAR4 neighbourhoods.

The institutions that have the smallest percentage of first-time undergraduates from low participation backgrounds tended to be specialist providers, such as the Royal College of Music, the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Royal Agricultural University.

City, Queen Mary University of London, King’s College London, Oxford University and UCL were the non-specialist providers with the smallest proportion of students from POLAR4 neighbourhoods.


Read more: Four in ten 18-year-olds have applied for university – Ucas


POLAR data shows the participation rates of young people in higher education by local areas.

This dataset has been criticised because it relies on postcodes, which might not reflect the multidimensional nature of inequality in admissions. For example, almost 10% of students in POLAR3 – which is classed as neither advantaged nor disadvantaged – are white males who receive free school meals, according to Ucas.

According to the Hesa statistics, the percentage of young, full-time, first-degree entrants from state schools in England has stalled at 89.9%, with no increase between 2017/18 and 2018/19. Universities in the north east accepted slightly more than one in five students from POLAR4, the largest proportion of any region in England. Conversely, universities in the south east accepted just less than half that figure, with 11% of students from POLAR4 neighbourhoods.

Some providers have outperformed the location-adjusted benchmark for POLAR4 student intake. Staffordshire, Suffolk, Canterbury Christ Church, Liverpool Hope and Hull universities head the table, outperforming their targets. At the bottom of the table were The Royal Northern College of Music, Royal Agricultural University, and the universities of Bradford and Oxford Brookes.

Liverpool Hope University accepted the largest proportion of mature full-time undergraduate entrants who have no previous HE qualification and come from a POLAR4 neighbourhood.

Read and download the latest Hesa data for widening participation.

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