Cambridge University found to have second lowest proportion of state educated students in UK

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Despite increasing by 0.7% in the 2016/17 year, Cambridge has the second lowest proportion of state school students other than private and specialist universities, according to statistics released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

HESA have revealed their data on the proportions of state school students and students from low participation neighbourhoods entering higher education in 2016/17. With 62.6% of its intake being from state schools, Cambridge had the second-fewest state school students in its undergraduate cohort, out of non-specialist public institutions. Oxford was the only similar university to have fewer state school students in its 2016/17 intake, with 57.7% of its new students coming from the state sector. There were five universities with lower proportions of state school students, of which four were specialist institutions (the New College of the Humanities; the Royal College of Music; the Royal Agricultural Academy; and the Courtauld Institute of Art), and one was private (Regent’s University London). Other universities with less than 65% state school students were the University of Durham, Imperial College London, the University of St Andrews, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Bristol.

A similar story emerges regarding Cambridge’s intake in the statistics on low participation neighbourhoods, which are based on the Participation of Local Areas (POLAR) statistics. Of non-specialist public universities, Cambridge had the second-lowest proportion of students from these neighbourhoods, accounting for just 3% of its intake. Oxford had the lowest at 2.8%, and almost all other institutions with less than 5% of students from these areas were specialist or private. HESA determines low participation neighbourhoods based on previous participation in higher education from young people in that area. It is a measure of educational disadvantage, but it does not take into account socioeconomic disadvantage specifically. Students from Wales and the North East are particularly unlikely to go on to higher education.

Cambridge’s state school intake and the intake from low participation neighbourhoods both show slight improvement from the 2015/16 figures. State school entrants were at 61.9%, meaning there was an increase of 0.7% between 2016 and 2017. There was also a 0.3% increase from low participation neighbourhoods, which was at 2.7% in 2015/16. The increase in state school participation is promising, and may indicate some impact from the university’s outreach programmes. The university offers outreach programmes specifically targeted towards students from areas flagged up by POLAR, such as the Sutton Trust Summer Schools and Experience Cambridge.

There were some positive indications from the course continuation figures. Cambridge had the lowest dropout rate of any non-specialist institution, with 20 people leaving from the 2015/16 cohort of 2,555, giving a continuation rate of 99.2%. Oxford was close behind with 98.9% continuation. The highest dropout rates came from private university GSM London (46.2% dropout), and the London School of Business and Management (28.4% dropout). Cambridge has historically had a high rate of course continuation, also having the lowest dropout rate in 2014/15 at 0.9%. However, investigation from The Cambridge Student in February 2015 showed that the statistics from 2011/12, which indicated similar figures, did not include students who intermitted and then chose not to continue their studies. If this is the case for this year’s statistics, it is difficult to draw reliable conclusions from these numbers.

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