We have recently published our strategy for 2022-25, and are now reviewing our key performance measures to make sure they are appropriate for this new strategy.
Key performance measure 1
Gap in participation between most and least represented groups
26.8 percentage points
In 2020-21, there was a gap of 26.8 percentage points between the most and least represented groups
We are considering target setting as part of our review of our key performance measures
Gap between POLAR4 quintile 5 and quintile 1 (shown as a percentage point difference)
Gap between POLAR4 quintile 5 and quintile 1 (shown as a ratio)
What does this show?
This measure shows the progress the sector has made on access to higher education.
The overall gap between the groups of students who are most and least likely to take up higher education has reduced steadily in recent years. The more this gap narrows, the more we can say that background does not limit access to higher education. The most represented students were 1.81 times more likely to participate in higher education than the least represented in 2020-21.
The measure currently considers underrepresented groups based on the participation of local areas (POLAR) classification. It groups areas across the UK based on higher education participation rates. Participation refers to an individual having started a higher education course at least once. We are developing more ways of measuring underrepresentation.
Note that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic was declared by the World Health Organisation on 11 March 2020.
The measure uses the rate of participation among 18-30 year olds by POLAR quintile.
- Frequency: Annual
- Population: 18-30 year old students domiciled in England who have participated in higher education in the UK
- Data sources: Individual student data from HESA, the Individualised Learner Record from ESFA, the POLAR classification of postcodes and population data
- Available: March.
Additional information about the methodology used is available in our KPM 1 and 2 documentation and annex:
Update to include data for academic year 2020-21. As with previous update, the geographical definitions have been updated to reflect the latest available version. There were also further improvements to the method of identifying the POLAR4 quintile of students. POLAR4 quintiles are now identified using the data from our postcode look-up tool.
- Update to include data for academic year 2019-20. As with previous update, the geographical definitions used have been updated to reflect the latest available version. This has led to small changes in the measure as the number of people in each POLAR4 quintile, which is a geography based measure, are slightly different.
- Differences in participation rates and ratios are now calculated using unrounded quintile 1 and quintile 5 participation rates. Previously these were calculated using rounded participation rates. For some years this has led to a small change in the differences and/or ratio compared to previous publications.
- Geographical definitions used have been updated to reflect the latest available version. This may have led to small changes in the measure as the number of people in each POLAR4 quintile, which is a geography based measure, may be slightly different.
- Changes were made to ensure that age is correctly recorded for higher level apprentices. Their age is now consistent with when the data was collected. Previously, it was based on the most recent year of data for the individual. This has increased the total number of participants in this measure.
- Calculation of participation rates are based on the revised versions of the population data as updated by the Office for National Statistics, which included minor amendments such as increases or decreases in individuals of certain ages in some geographical areas. This may have led to small changes in the measure as the number of people in each POLAR4 quintile may be slightly different.
- Calculation of new entrants and previous entrants take into account higher education level apprenticeships which was previously unaccounted for in the previous methodology. As a result, participation rates calculated by the updated methodology have increased due to an increase in the number of participants in higher education, particularly after 2015, where data on apprentices from the Higher Education Statistics Agency became available.
- Adjustments were made to the population data to account for all students whose permanent and temporary addresses reflected a shift in POLAR categories. Adjustments allowed for higher accuracy in measuring the number of people in each POLAR quintile. The previous methodology adjusted the number of participants who moved between quintiles based on the number of new entrants who moved between quintiles in post-2009 data, where both permanent and temporary addresses were available. The current methodology based the adjustments on the number of all students who moved between quintiles instead of just the new entrants. These changes to the adjustment methods have impacted the number of participants grouped by each POLAR4 quintile, which will affect participation rates.
Corrections were made to an error that prevented the population from being restricted to 18-30 year olds as required by the definition of the KPM. It was originally published based on the proportion of the working age population (16-65 year olds) that participates in higher education.
Last updated 24 March 2022 + show all updates
24 March 2022
- Updated with 2020-21 data, and a small change to methodology
11 March 2021
- Updated with annual data
15 February 2021
- Availability changed to March
02 April 2020
- Annual update
02 May 2019
- Annual update
16 November 2018
- Corrections to an error
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