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Progress on equality of access stalling, UCAS figures show

Teenagers from the most advantaged areas were still more than twice as likely to start undergraduate degrees in 2018 as their peers from the most disadvantaged areas, according to the latest figures from UCAS.

This year, 19.7 per cent of 18-year-olds and 19-year-olds from the most disadvantaged parts of the country were accepted to start a course in September, versus 46.5 per cent of those from the most advantaged areas. As in previous years, the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged has narrowed, but the rate at which this gap is narrowing appears to be stalling. These figures are based on the POLAR4 measure that splits areas into five quintiles based on higher education participation rates.

The gap also continues to be stubbornly larger for ‘higher tariff’ providers—a classification used by UCAS to identify providers with higher average levels of attainment in accepted applicants. Those from the most advantaged group were nearly six times more likely to study at a higher-tariff university than those from the least advantaged POLAR4 group.

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