An analysis of higher education applications by the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has claimed that black and Asian teenagers are more likely to apply for university places than their white counterparts.
There are also “eye-catching regional variations in demand”, according to UCAS chief executive Mary Curnock Cook, with teenagers in Northern Ireland making the highest proportion of applications, and those in Wales the least. Within England, teenagers from London are the most likely to apply for places, with around 42% of all 18 year-olds seeking admission to university.
UCAS’s figures appear to confirm that the likelihood of whether a young person applies to university is heavily influenced by such factors as social background, ethnicity and where they live.
Between 2006 and 2013 there has been a considerable increase in applications from ethnic minorities in England, particularly black teenagers, rising from 20% to 34%. Chinese teenagers are the most likely to apply, followed by other Asians.
White teenagers, however, are the least likely to apply, with only 29% seeking places.
“Our new analysis of demand by ethnic group shows that white pupils at English schools now have the lowest application rate of any ethnic group. There has been significant growth in demand from black pupils,” said Curnock Cook.
Wealth is also an issue. More teenagers from the poorest income groups are applying, but there are still significant gaps in terms of social background.
Teenagers from the richest areas are more than four times as likely to apply to the most selective universities than those from the poorest areas, while youths who were entitled to free school meals are only half as likely to apply to university than those who were not.
Les Ebdon, director of the Office of Fair Access, an independent public body that is intended to safeguard and promote fair access to higher education, welcomed the fact that the gap in applications between richest and poorest was narrowing.
However, Universities UK chief Nichola Dandrige warned that UCAS’s figures did not show applications from mature and part-time students, which have been affected by the increase in tuition fees under the Coalition government.
“Numbers of mature and part-time students have decreased considerably since 2010 and any further drop may have significant implications for potential students and the country as a whole,” she said.