Published on February 24, 2014 | by Jessica Murray

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More students from poorer areas applying for university

A woman holds the contents of her purse

Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are now twice as likely to apply to university than they were ten years ago. [Francis Wilmer]

Newly released figures show that university applications are at their highest level for disadvantaged young people from England.

The latest figures from UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) reveal that the number of undergraduate applications made by 18 year olds coming from poorer areas has increased to 20.7 per cent, meaning they are twice as likely to apply to university than they were ten years ago.

Business secretary Vince Cable said: “There is more financial support for those from disadvantaged backgrounds and everyone will make lower loan repayments once they are in well-paid jobs.”

Cable stressed the importance of the government’s reforms, stating: “Going to university should be accessible to everyone with ability, not the ability to pay. Our reforms were tough but they were right and we are now seeing the fruits of our efforts.”

Despite the rise, those from wealthier areas are still more likely to apply to university. The UCAS figures show that an “unprecedented” 35 per cent of 18 year olds from England have submitted a UCAS application this year.

Hinders

Speaking to The Guardian, Les Ebdon, director of the Office of Fair Access, said: “Young people from the most advantaged areas are still two and a half times more likely to apply for higher education than those from areas where participation is low. This gap hinders efforts to increase social mobility and addressing it must remain a priority.”

The rate of applications overall increased by four per cent with a total of 580,000 for the years 2012-13, almost equal to the figures in 2011 when the fees were a third of the current £9,000.

The figures also show that young people from the capital are 25 per cent more likely to apply to university than their non-London counterparts.

For Paul Clark, director of policy for the Universities UK lobby group, while it is important to attract disadvantaged students, it is even more to keep them. He said: “We know that one of the main challenges for institutions is ensuring these students settle in at university and complete their degrees.”

However, despite hundreds of millions of pounds being spent on bursaries and outreach programmes since the 1990s, only three per cent of the poorest 40 per cent of 18 year olds went on to higher education at the UK’s top universities in 2011-12, representing only a 0.5 per cent increase since 1998.

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