Where you stay matters: Study shows link between teens’ address and the likelihood of them applying to university

Former U.S. President Barack Obama and former British Prime Minister David Cameron help students in a Northern Ireland school paint a mural. Northern Ireland had the highest application rate, at 48 percent. Image via AP Photo/Evan Vucci.

Teenagers from the most disadvantaged area in UK are four times less likely to apply for university than their peers staying in the most advantaged area, a Press Association study has found.

Using data from the UK-based organisation, Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), the multimedia communications agency tracked the location of the college applications that were made through UCAS.

The study showed that London had the highest application rate of 47 percent, while the southwest region of England had the lowest at 32 percent.

Most strikingly, the study found that teenagers in Wimbledon in southwest London were four times more likely to apply to university than those from Havant, Hampshire.

On average this year, 55 percent of 18-year-olds living in the top 10 percent of parliamentary constituencies in terms of university applications applied for a degree course by the main January 15 deadline.

Conversely, just 24 percent of those living in the bottom 10 percent of constituencies had applied by the same point.

Students wearing their graduation gowns in London, which was found to have the highest university application rate in England, at 47%. Image via AP Photo/Matt Dunham.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and executive chairman of the Sutton Trust, said of the data: “The fact that London has the highest proportion of young people going on to university reflects both high aspirations and improvement in the capital’s schools.

“The massive difference in the numbers going on to university between the top and bottom constituencies reflects the fact that the chances of getting to university are very much dependent on where you live and where you go to school.”

A picture of socio-economic inequality

This new finding follows recent concerns on education’s role in social mobility in the UK, as well as the growing wealth inequality globally.

In the UK, applications from 18-year-olds, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, were at record levels, according to England’s Department for Education. The gap between rich and poor students being offered university places was also reported to be at record highs last year.

Universities UK (UUK) recognised the need for institutions to do more to boost social mobility within their regions.

The Universities UK Social Mobility Advisory Group‘s research last year urged higher education institutions to become “anchor institutions within their local communities to promote economic, social and cultural regeneration” by calling on universities to  work “even more closely with schools and colleges” to encourage more teenagers to apply to universities.

“There are no quick and easy solutions,” said UUK chief executive Nicola Dandridge.

Protesters demonstrate outside Britain’s department of business in central London, Monday Dec. 13, 2010. Students, staff and trade unions had a day of action in protest at Britain’s government plans to axe the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), a grant for the poorest teenagers. Image via AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis.

Education providers in disadvantaged areas were “working incredibly hard to close the attainment gap and support pupils who do not have the same advantages in life as their wealthier peers”, according to Malcolm Trobe of the Association of School and College Leaders.

“However, the education system cannot solve the impact of significant socio-economic inequality on its own,” the interim general secretary said to the BBC.

“There are a range of social factors which must also be addressed in disadvantaged areas, such as improving the provision of secure, well-paid employment, and good-quality, affordable housing,” he added.

A spokesman for the Department for Education said the government was spending £120 million on outreach, while further reforms would “mean even more people can benefit from a university education”.

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