Findings from the data

We have summarised the key gaps in access, continuation and attainment at a sector level for different student characteristics. These measures are all reported using data available from the access and participation dataset (as at March 2021).

Access to higher education

These measures show the make-up of students entering higher education.

In 2019-20, the proportion of 18-year-olds entering full-time higher education in England from areas where young people are the least represented in higher education (POLAR4 quintile 1) was 6.1 percentage points lower than the proportion of 18-year-olds living in these areas in the UK.

This gap has closed slightly over the last five years, from 7.2 percentage points in 2015-16.

Sector-level time series of gaps in the proportion of least represented 18-year-olds entering full-time higher education compared with the population

Proportion of 18-year-olds in the UK and entering English higher education in 2019-20 as full-time undergraduate students, by characteristic

Characteristic Attribute Proportion of 18-year-olds in UK population (%) Proportion of 18-year-olds in English higher education sector (%) Gap between population and higher education sector (pp)
Ethnicity Asian 8.3 16.7 -8.5

Black

3.6 7.1 -3.5

Mixed

3.2 5.2 -2.0

Other

1.1 2.1 -1.0

White

83.9 68.9 15.0
IMD Quintile 1 21.9 17.0 4.9

Quintile 5

20.0 25.9 -6.0
POLAR4 Quintile 1 17.9 11.8 6.1
Quintile 5 23.7 30.7 -7.1
Sex Female 48.7 55.8 -7.1

Male

51.3 44.2 7.1

Note: Because of rounding, the gaps shown in the table might not be the same as the difference between two proportions.

18-year-olds from POLAR4 quintile 1 areas were underrepresented in around two-thirds of English higher education providers in 2019-20.

Gaps in proportion of least represented 18-year-olds in 2018-19 (higher education provider compared with population)

Note: Based on proportions for 200 providers.

Further access data, including other student characteristics and part-time undergraduate entrants, is available in the access and participation data dashboard.

Continuation rates

These measures show whether or not students continue their studies.

There was an 8.0 percentage point gap between the proportion of full-time students from the most and least deprived areas (IMD quintile 5 and quintile 1) continuing into their second year in 2019-20. This gap has increased slightly over the last five years.

Sector-level time series of gaps in full-time continuation rates between students from the most and least deprived areas by academic year of entry

Continuation rates for those entrants continuing into 2018-19, by characteristic

Characteristic Attribute Full-time undergraduate continuation rate (%) Full-time undergraduate continuation gap (pp)
Age Young* 92.4  

 Mature

84.4 8.0
Disability No disability reported* 90.2  
Disability reported 89.3 0.9
Disability type No disability reported* 90.2  
Cognitive or learning difficulties 91.5 -1.3
Mental health condition 87.0 3.2
Multiple or other impairments 89.4 0.8
Sensory, medical or physical 89.1 1.1
Social or communication impairment 88.7 1.5
Ethnicity White* 91.1  
Asian 90.2 0.9
Black 84.9 6.1
Mixed 89.1 2.0
Other 87.4 3.7
IMD Quintile 5* 93.9  
Quintile 1 85.9 8.0
POLAR4 Quintile 5* 94.4  
Quintile 1 89.6 4.7
Sex Male* 88.7  
Female 91.2 -2.5

Notes: Full-time continuation rates are for 2018-19 full-time or apprenticeship entrants continuing into their second year in 2019-20. Attributes with a * indicate those against which other attributes are compared when deriving gaps. Because of rounding, the gaps shown in the table might not be the same as the difference between two rates.

For 2018-19 entrants, the continuation rate for mature full-time students was 8.0 percentage points lower than for young full-time students.

The gap has widened by 0.9 percentage points over the last five years mainly because of a decline in the continuation rate for mature students.

The gap in continuation between full-time students with no known disability and students with a reported disability has fluctuated over the last five years, but for 2018-19 entrants the gap was the same as for 2014-15 entrants, at 0.9 percentage points.

The continuation rate for both white and black full-time students has decreased over the last five years. This decline has been sharper for black students than for white students, resulting in a widening of the gap between the two groups. For 2018-19 entrants the gap was 6.1 percentage points.

Attainment

These measures examine the proportions of students who achieve a first or upper second-class degree.

The attainment rate for full-time black students is consistently much lower than for full-time white students across the five-year time series. Although the gap has closed by around six percentage points in the last five years, it remains very large, at 18.3 percentage points in 2019-20.

Sector-level time series of gaps in full-time attainment rates between white and black students

Attainment rates for full-time students obtaining a first or upper second-class degree in 2019-20 by characteristic

Characteristic Attribute Full-time undergraduate attainment rate (%) Full-time undergraduate attainment gap (pp)
Age Young* 85.2  

 Mature

75.6 9.6
Disability No disability reported* 83.6  
Disability reported 82.3 1.3
Disability type No disability reported* 83.6  
Cognitive or learning difficulties 81.0 2.6
Mental health condition 83.4 0.2
Multiple or other impairments 83.4 0.2
Sensory, medical or physical 83.3 0.3
Social or communication impairment 78.8 4.8
Ethnicity White* 86.6  
Asian 78.8 7.7
Black 68.2 18.3
Mixed 83.0 3.6
Other 76.6 9.9
IMD Quintile 5* 89.4  
Quintile 1 74.2 15.2
POLAR4 Quintile 5* 88.7  
Quintile 1 80.0 8.8
Sex Male* 81.9  
Female 84.4 -2.5

Note: Attainment rate reflects students obtaining a first or upper second-class degree in 2019-20. Attributes with a * indicate the one against which other attributes are compared against when deriving gaps. Because of rounding, the gaps shown in the table might not be the same as the difference between two rates.

The gap between the attainment rate for young and mature full-time students has remained about the same over the last five years. In 2019-20, the attainment rate for mature students was 9.6 percentage points lower than for young students (under 21 at the age of entry).

There was an 15.2 percentage point gap between the proportion of full-time students from the most and least deprived areas (IMD quintile 1 and quintile 5 respectively) achieving first or upper second-class degrees in 2019-20.

This gap in attainment rate between white and black students exists at most higher education providers. For more than half of providers, this gap is greater than 15 percentage points.

Gaps in full-time attainment rate between white and black students by provider

Note: Based on the attainment rate for 97 providers.

Graduate outcomes: progression to highly skilled employment

The progression data currently shown in the dashboard uses data from the Destination of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey, and remains the same as the data that we published last year. Please see the 2020 sector summary report for an analysis of progression data in this release.

Read a full analysis of the data

Published 07 May 2020
Last updated 11 March 2021
11 March 2021
Updated with annual release of data

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