James Ball on how UCAS gather ‘deprivation’ stats on applications

James Ball has written an illuminating piece on the recent UCAS statistics and reports which suggested that applications from wealthy students had dropped much more than those from poorer students. He adds some important context on precisely which applicants the data covers…

“Ucas has released this deprivation analysis only for 18-year-old students. This group now makes up fewer than half of all university applicants, and experienced a far smaller fall in applications than others did.

“Application from 18-year-olds fell 2.6% year on year, versus 12.6% for 19-year-olds and 11.4% for those aged 20. Applications from those aged 25 or over fell by over 10%.

“… The reason for confining the analysis to this group was because “generally applicants in this category will not have had a previous opportunity to apply to higher education”, according to a spokesman – in other words, this group was largely unable to apply early to university to avoid fees.

…and on how ‘deprivation’ is defined:

“The groups it cites, which most media outlets (fairly reasonably) approximated to income groups, are not sorted by wealth.

“Instead, their analysis uses what’s known as the POLAR2 methodology.

“This sorts areas into five groups based on the proportion of young people in that region who enter higher education.

“While this correlates with income or class, it obviously is not the same thing as grouping by wealth.

“Some other groups who produce statistics on higher education use different methodologies. The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), for example, uses a measure based on social class, using parents’ occupation.

“Unfortunately the results by this measure might take a while. The latest HESA data available dates from 2009/10 – with the 2011/12 figures not due until February 2013.”

About Paul Bradshaw

Founder of Help Me Investigate. I'm a visiting professor at City University London's School of Journalism, and run an MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University. I publish the Online Journalism Blog, and am the co-author of the Online Journalism Handbook and Magazine Editing (3rd edition). I have a particular interest in Freedom of Information and data journalism.
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