Free school meal pupils were 8% more likely to apply in 2014 than last year and their application rate reached a new high of 18%. Women have higher application rates than men, among free school meal pupils women are 50% more likely to apply, and among other pupils 32% more likely, according to latest UCAS figures.
Around one in eight English pupils receive free school meals (FSM) and their application rate at age 18 to higher education is around half that of other pupils.
Women are more likely to apply to higher education aged 18 than men, whether they received FSM or not, but this difference between men and women is greater for the FSM group. In 2014, the application rate of young women in the FSM group (21%) was 50% higher than men (14%).
Application rates to higher education have a strong relationship with GCSE attainment. The differences in application rates between the FSM group and other pupils are smaller when looking at pupils with similar levels of GCSE attainment.
For example, there is a 19 percentage point gap between the FSM group and other pupils overall but this difference falls to between 1 to 2 percentage points across a broad range of GCSE attainment profiles.