Life isn’t fair. Inequality pervades almost all areas of society – class, income, education, race, gender, etc.
Universities do not escape this reality, though the degrees of which can vary from institution to institution.
Measuring inequality can be daunting, especially if one wants to get the truest representation of a place, which would require many well-selected indicators.
But the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) in the UK have chosen to rely on one single measure: Admissions figures.
Known as the Participation of Local Areas (Polar), the Polar figures divides the UK into five areas based on the proportion of 18-year-olds entering n higher education aged 18 or 19 years old.
Ideally, each of the 132 universities studied will admit one-fifth of its student body from each group. Which universities came closest and which failed to reach this ideal state?
Here are the results:
Top 10 universities for class equality
- Edge Hill
- Plymouth College of Art
- York St John
- Leeds Beckett
- Anglia Ruskin
- Cardiff Metropolitan
Bottom 10 universities for class equality
- St Andrews
- University College London
- Robert Gordon
- London School of Economics
Unsurprisingly, the results show that the universities that usually occupy the top of the rankings table are also the most unequal in the country. They have much improvement to do.
Speaking to the BBC, Nick Hillman, director of HEPI said: “This analysis reveals which universities reflect our society best and those which have further to travel.”
Learning outcomes were better when students from diverse backgrounds studied alongside each other, according to Hillman.
“The best way to deliver fairer access to selective institutions is the same as the best way to deliver widening participation overall, which is to provide more places,” he added.
Professor Iain Martin, report author and Anglia Ruskin vice-chancellor, said that despite ongoing efforts to boost equal access to higher education: “We do not have an educational level playing field.”