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North and South Belfast poles apart when it comes to going to university

By Rebecca Black

Published 19/12/2015

Young people from north Belfast are least likely to go to university, yet others who live just a few miles up the road are the most likely to, it has emerged
Young people from north Belfast are least likely to go to university, yet others who live just a few miles up the road are the most likely to, it has emerged

Young people from North Belfast are least likely to go to university, yet others who live just a few miles up the road are the most likely to, it has emerged.

North and South Belfast are at opposite ends of attainment in statistics released by UCAS, the agency which places applicants in universities across the UK.

Just 21.1% of young people in North Belfast, which includes the Shankill Road, New Lodge and Tigers Bay, were offered a university place (290), compared to a whopping 39.4% in South Belfast, which includes Malone and Stranmillis (460).

The new figures indicate a continuing discrepancy in the levels of academic achievement within Belfast. They also correspond with the level of deprivation in each area.

North Belfast has one of the highest numbers in the province of children who are entitled to free school meals (3,702), compared with 1,671 in South Belfast.

West and East Belfast also had among the lowest university acceptance rates, with 24.6% and 28.1% respectively.

The areas with the highest university acceptance rates also included South Down (39.3%), East Antrim (38.8%) and North Antrim (38.6%).

Overall across the UK, the total number of people who entered higher education in September increased, but in Northern Ireland the number fell by 1,000. A total of 532,300 people entered higher education in September in the UK - an underlying increase of 3.1% (16,100) on last year and the highest number recorded, the UCAS End of Cycle Report showed.

Most accepted students are from the UK (463,700), an underlying increase of 2.8% and the highest number placed by UCAS.

Acceptances from other EU countries rose by 11% to 29,300, and 39,000 students were accepted from outside the EU, an increase of just 1.9%.

Young people in England became 3% more likely to enter higher education and this, plus a one-year uptake of 2% in the 18-year-old population has pushed the number of UK 18-year-olds placed up 5% to a record 235,400.

Universities made a record 1.9 million offers to students and more applicants than ever before got into their first 'firm' choice (384,100). The acceptance rate (the proportion of applicants placed) rose by 0.9% to 74.1%, with rises for UK applicants of all ages. In total 718,500 people applied.

Higher Education in England saw the bulk of the increases in total numbers, with Wales broadly similar and a fall of around 1,000 acceptances to HE in Northern Ireland. However the entry rate for 18-year-old women grew twice as fast as for men. Women are now 35% more likely to enter than men - the largest difference recorded.

For former free school meal pupils, and those living in poorer areas, women are over 50% more likely to enter than men. Compared to the entry rates for women, a record 36,000 18-year-old men are "missing" from universities this year.

UCAS chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said the difference in entry rates to higher education between those from more deprived backgrounds and the privileged is now at an historic low.

"But with further increases in the gap between men and women entering higher education, we can now see clearly that concentrating outreach efforts on young men would make a significant contribution to diminishing the rich-poor gap," she said.

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