State school children in rural parts of the UK are much less likely to go to university after completing their A levels than their counterparts in cities, new figures from the Department for Education have suggested. The statistics show that 56 per cent of pupils in London went on to university after A levels (or equivalent Level 3 qualifications), while in the south-west of England the proportion was just 40 per cent and in the south-east outside London it was 43 per cent.
Additionally, 17 per cent of children in London attended Russell Group universities, compared with the English average of eight per cent. Overall, regions with large urban areas tended to have a higher than average proportion of students going on to university, with outer London boroughs particularly high at 66 per cent.
In the south-west and Yorkshire and the Humber, only 12 per cent of students went to the most selective third of universities, as defined by Ucas entry score requirements. The Department for Education noted that the statistics were experimental and the methodology was still under evaluation. In some cases, the problem may be that students in rural areas are unwilling to move a long distance from home to attend a university – something that could be solved with distance learning courses.
The news comes shortly after schools inspector Ofsted said students from poorer backgrounds in rural areas are now performing less well at GCSE level than children from similar backgrounds in inner cities.