UCAS publishes first equality reports for individual universities

UCAS has published new analysis that extends its existing national equality reporting to individual universities for the first time.

The reports, created on behalf of around 130 larger universities, place the likelihood of being offered a place in the context of average offer rates for other applicants with the same predicted grades applying to the same courses at that university.

They also set the number of applicants and accepted applicants in the context of population differences, which is especially important for understanding representation in higher education for different ethnic groups.

As shown in our earlier national reports, there are some large differences in the share of the population who enter universities by background, sex and ethnic group.

This new analysis controls for the two factors that are most strongly correlated with the likelihood of receiving an offer – namely, predicted grades held and the competitiveness of the course applied to. Taking these two strongly predictive factors into account typically reduces large raw differences in offer rates between groups to much smaller values, indicating that the offer-making process operated by universities is broadly fair.

There are some complex patterns across individual universities. Although disadvantaged groups, young men and the White ethnic group are the most under-represented in higher education as a whole, this is not the case at every institution.

There are many other factors that can affect the statistics for individual universities, such as the courses they offer, where they are located, and how they assess different exam subjects. Universities will often have a student profile driven mainly by the demographics of the local population if that is their main recruitment area.

UCAS Chief Executive, Mary Curnock Cook said: ‘Universities have responded readily and rapidly to the White Paper challenge of greater transparency in the admissions process. Fair admissions is a hallmark of the UK higher education sector.’

The data is published in PDF and CSV format in the data and analysis section of ucas.com.

The suite of reports published today (9 June) includes:

  • reports for over 130 larger higher education providers, detailing applicants, acceptances and offer-rates by applicants’ sex, ethnic group, and background (POLAR3, and SIMD quintile for providers in Scotland)
  • a guide to using the ‘sex, area background and ethnic group’ reports
  • lookup tables to check whether the difference in offer rate and average offer rate (a key measure) is large enough to be confident it is not statistical ‘noise’
  • summary-level reports by higher, medium and lower tariff universities
  • an interactive explorer tool for more easily accessible comparisons

An important note on Scotland and the SIMD and POLAR3 measures of disadvantage

The background of applicants across the UK is measured using the POLAR3 classification. This places small areas into five groups by their overall young entry rate. Across the UK, around a fifth of young people live in each group. In Scotland, young entry rates are relatively high, meaning there is a lower share of young people living in POLAR Quintile 1 (least advantaged) areas. For applicants from Scotland applying to universities in Scotland, an alternative small area measure, the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), is also used. This classification is constructed to have roughly 20 per cent of the young Scottish population in each quintile, and so represents a more evenly split measure of background for Scotland.

Further notes to editors

  • The data published today are part of UCAS’ established programme of detailed reporting on entry and offer rates by equality characteristics.
  • These reports are intended to show trends and provide data for universities and those interested in equality in higher education – they are not designed as information and guidance for prospective students.
  • The data on average offer rates control for the summary strength of predicted grades and the type of course applied to – for example, it is much less likely that a student with lower grades applying to a competitive course will get an offer.
  • They do not account for other factors such as qualification subjects and their relevance to the course applied to, or the exact profile of the predicted grades. Other factors such as the personal statement, teacher references, work experience, or portfolios may also be relevant to offer making but do not lend themselves to meaningful analysis. Predicted grades and course applied to are the two strongest indicators of the likelihood of receiving an offer.
  • Smaller universities and some specialist course providers have been excluded from this data set, where low student volumes may require a different analytical approach.

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