Who does best in higher education?

Major new research by HEFCE, the funding body for universities in England, into who does best in higher education suggests state school pupils outperform independent school pupils; girls outperform boys and white pupils do better than those from other ethnic groups. The study also finds that pupils from poorer backgrounds do less well than those from wealthier areas, even with the same A level grades.

At an Education Media Centre briefing for journalists and educationists to launch the research, Hefce Chief Executive, Professor Madeleine Atkins, described the results as both “interesting and disturbing”.

The analysis, which has been peer reviewed, includes the following key findings about factors affecting achievement at university:


· State school students tend to do better in their degree studies than students with the same prior educational attainment from independent schools


· Female students are more likely to achieve an upper second or higher than male students with the same prior educational attainment


· There is significant variation in degree outcome for students from different ethnicities. In all, 72 per cent of White students who entered higher education with A-level grades of BBB gained a first or upper second class degree. This compares with 56 per cent for Asian students, and 53 per cent for Black students, entering with the same A-level grades.


· Students from disadvantaged areas tend to do less well in higher education than those with the same prior educational attainment from more advantaged areas.

You can read more details in the Hefce press release and read the full report.

Hefce’s Dr Mark Gittoes, who carried out the analysis of the school and higher education achievements of 130,000 students, explains what the research set out to explore:


See also expert reaction from Professor Robin Naylor, University of Warwick.

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