The gap between the number of women and men enrolling in university has reached a record high, according to new data released.
For the first time, the university admissions service, UCAS published data revealing how likely students in the UK are to be accepted onto courses, based on gender, ethnicity and the social background of applicants.
The data showed that disadvantaged groups, young men and the white ethnic group are the most under-represented in higher education.
The study looked at the admissions of 132 universities across the UK, and also suggested that white students are now under-represented at nearly half of all universities. Women were found to attend university 90 per cent more than men.
The figures also showed that those from privileged backgrounds are more likely to be accepted to the university. Applicants from the most advantaged backgrounds were 14 times more likely to be accepted into Oxford University and 16 times more likely to gain a place at Cambridge in 2015.
However, UCAS has warned students not to use the information when deciding on whether and where to apply. Mark Corver, director of analysis and research at UCAS, said, “We would not expect this information to be used by students when they apply to universities.”
Dr Wendy Platt, Russell Group Director General, said, “The UCAS statistics published today show no evidence of bias within the admissions system. Ensuring our doors are wide open to talented and able students from all backgrounds really matters to us. The root causes of underrepresentation are complex and a much wider range of factors need to be taken into account to fully understand the problem.”
“Without the full context of individual applications, the data published by UCAS today tells only part of the story; a much fuller picture is required to understand why some students are not applying to or winning places at leading universities.”
Professor Les Ebdon, director of fair access to higher education said, “Some universities will clearly be very challenged by this data, and I expect them to work hard to understand the discrepancies between applications and offers made for certain groups.”
“I do not accept that an applicant’s ethnicity or where they come from should be a barrier to attending university.”
“Publishing this data is a real step forward for widening access. It increases transparency, and helps universities to evaluate what they do so they can get to the heart of what has most impact.”
“The Prime Minister has set ambitious goals to increase the rates of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds entering higher education. This data will aid understanding of individual universities’ progress towards the Prime Minister’s targets, and help us identify those with the furthest still to go.”