Data recently published by the Office for Students shows that there are still wide gaps between the most and least advantaged students accessing University, and that the outcomes students achieve are also significantly affected by their backgrounds.

The dataset looks at each university and college’s student intake, drop-out rates, degree attainment and progression to further study or employment for different groups of students over the last five years and shows:

–  67% of English universities and other higher education providers had gaps in higher education access for young students from the least advantaged areas. There are substantial gaps in access at all higher-tariff universities.

–  Young students from disadvantaged areas are more likely to drop out, less likely to gain a first or 2:1, or find graduate employment compared to their more advantaged peers.

– 89.2% of disadvantaged students continue their studies into their second year, compared to 94.2% of the most advantaged students.

–  74.6% of students from disadvantaged backgrounds are awarded a first or 2:1. The figure for the most advantaged students is 84.1%

–  68.8% of students from disadvantaged backgrounds go on to secure higher-level employment or post-graduate study, compared to 74.8% of students from the most advantaged backgrounds.

Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation at the OfS, said:

‘The dataset is a game changer for the way in which we hold universities to account on access and successful participation. It provides a more transparent picture of equality of opportunity in different universities than ever before.

‘We have set ambitious targets to reduce equality gaps during the next five years. Universities now need to focus their attention on the specific areas where they face the biggest challenges. While some universities will need to focus on improving access to higher education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the data shows that for many universities the real challenge is in ensuring these students can succeed in their studies, and thrive in life after graduation. This data will help them to do that, and to showcase their achievements.’

For the first time, data has also been made available showing the differences in outcomes for students who declare a mental health condition.

Yvonne Hawkins, Director of Teaching Excellence and Student Experience at OfS, said:

‘Universities should look at the data closely and consider how they can continue to support students reporting mental ill health. Work to improve the mental health of all students is a priority for the OfS. We have made funding of up to £6 million available to drive a step-change in improving mental health, and are working with Research England to deliver further funding of up to £1.5 million to enhance mental health support for postgraduate research students.’

You can access the data dashboard and read the article in full on the OfS website