Record number of disadvantaged students to start at university this year

Despite the increase, the gap between the most advantaged and least advantaged students only narrowed slightly

More disadvantaged students will go to university this year than ever before, but inequality has only narrowed fractionally, latest statistics from Ucas show.

The most recent figures from the 2019 admissions cycle show that, for the first time ever, more than 20% of 18-year-olds from low participation neighbourhoods (POLAR4 quintile 1 areas) will attend university this autumn.

But despite the increase, the inequality between the most and least advantaged groups gaining a place at university only narrowed slightly. The rise in acceptance rates for both demographic groups was virtually the same, implying a negligible reduction in inequality.

18-year-olds from the most advantaged parts of the country were more than twice as likely to go to university as those from the least advantaged neighbours.


Figures from 2018 and 2019 compared:

POLAR 5 quintile 5 (the most advantaged areas)
2018 – 46.4% of 18-year-olds accepted a place
2019 – 47.1% of 18-year-olds accepted a place

POLAR 4 quintile 1 (the least advantaged areas)
2018 – 19.4% of 18-year-olds accepted a place
2019 – 20.4% of 18-year-olds accepted a place


Nearly 34% of all 18-year-olds nationwide will start a course at university this autumn.

A record 40,720 international students from outside the EU have been accepted, representing a 6% increase on last year. The number of EU students accepted is similar to 2018.


Read more: Ucas challenges Labour admissions shake-up


There has also been a 10% increase in the number of students accepting a place through Clearing. 24% of Clearing students secured a place through a post-qualification route, having not applied earlier in this year’s admissions cycle.

Clare Marchant, UCAS’ chief executive, said: “More people using Clearing shows the increasing flexibility of the different routes students can choose to enter higher education.”