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The North-South divide at British universities

Teenagers in the northern part of England are less likely to go into higher education than their southern counterparts, a recent report has revealed.

An investigation by Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner, stated that children in the north suffer from several disadvantages that affect their prospects of going to university and other forms of higher education.

One aspect of the report revealed the regional difference between the prospects of children in low-income families.

Speaking on the release of the report, Mrs Longfield stated: “We need to ask why a child from a low-income family in London is three times more likely to go to university than a child who grows up in Hartlepool.”

The number of children claiming free school meals (FSM) is used frequently to measure the level of educational disadvantage between children, and the figure often reveals the relation between deprivation at home and how well children do in higher education. There are higher proportions of children claiming FSM in the north of England than the South. In the North East of England, it is almost 20%, while in the South East of England it is 10%.

However, children claiming FSM in London are on average twice as likely to go to university than children receiving FSM in the north.

Children claiming FSM in London are on average twice as likely to go to university than children receiving FSM in the north

While there may be a North-South disparity in terms of university prospects, the North tops the country for young people going into apprenticeships and sustained employment after higher education.

On a wider scale, the report also discovered that the number of teenagers not in sustained education is around 6% in Northern city regions, higher than the national average of 5%. This is despite the statutory requirement for children to be in education until 19. However, in some Northern cities, such as Middlesbrough, Manchester and Blackpool, the number of 16-18 year olds out of education is twice the national average of 5%.

The number of teenagers not in sustained education is around 6% in Northern city regions, higher than the national average of 5%

The educational divide between North and South has also been branded a divide between London and the rest of the UK.

The report by the Children’s Commissioner echoes the findings of the government’s recent social mobility commission, which in 2017 stated that London dramatically outperformed every region on every youth social mobility indicator, while the North East has one of the lowest social mobility indications.

London dramatically outperformed every region on every youth social mobility indicator

The government report also found that areas with fewer higher education institutes are also areas of the lowest youth social mobility, as young people in areas with no higher education provider must leave home if they want to go to university. The Yorkshire and Humber region is an area where university participation from local teenagers is particularly low. Conversely, London has more social mobility hotspots than any other region. However, government spending on travel connections to overcome deprivation and disconnection in the UK is only £190 per person in Yorkshire and the Humber – this figure stands at £1,943 for individuals in London.

Government spending on travel connections to overcome deprivation and disconnection in the UK is only £190 per person in Yorkshire and the Humber – this figure stands at £1,943 for individuals in London

The Yorkshire and Humber region is also below the national average for disadvantaged young people attending university, with 19% attending compared with the national average of 24%. This figure drops to 10% in Barnsley. The region also has the joint highest rate of disadvantaged people who are not in education, employment or training, with the figure standing at 17%. This is reinforced by the youth unemployment rate. The City of Bradford, in West Yorkshire, has 26% youth unemployment – one of the highest in the country.

The City of Bradford, in West Yorkshire, has 26% youth unemployment, one of the highest in the country.

It has been argued that education in the North has been affected by a lack of regeneration and investment. Indeed, the Social Mobility Commission found that disadvantaged young people in post-industrial areas are half as likely to achieve two or more A-levels (or equivalent) by 19 and almost half as likely to go to university compared with those in more socially and ethnically diverse urban areas.

At the University of Warwick, data released in 2015/16 revealed that Warwick received 8,791 applicants from London and the South East of England, which made up 41.5% of total applicants. This contrasts with 2,757 applicants from both the North East and the North West of England, which makes up 13% of total applicants.

Warwick received 8,791 applicants from London and the South East of England, which made up 41.5% of total applicants

Looking at the same data for entrants in the 2015/16 academic year, there were 1,438 entrants from London and the South East, 44.8%. From the North East and North West, there were 168 and 195 entrants, making up a total of 11.3% of entrants from the North of England.

From the North East and North West, there were 168 and 195 entrants, making up a total of 11.3% of entrants from the North of England

The most pronounced gap at Warwick was in the Faculty of Social Sciences, with 51.1% of entrants coming from London and the South East, compared with 9.7% from the North of England.

The University of Warwick Northern Society told The Boar that “there are a lot more southern students than northern, despite [Warwick University] being a central uni”.

In terms of the divide between Northern and Southern students, the Northern Society commented: “While there are not many differences [between Northern and Southern students] there are a lot of subtle cultural ones, which is what the society is here to celebrate.”

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Comments (1)

  • this is such a non issue! Write better articles. I personally blame the editor in chief who wrote this shambolic excuse of an article. I vote for a dramatic change in leadership in this once great news outlet. Good Day sir!

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