Belfast Telegraph

99% of Northern Ireland university students come from state-funded schools

By Alison Kershaw

More than 99% of students at university in Northern Ireland are from state-funded schools, new figures show.

There were four universities where all new UK students starting their first, full-time degree were educated at state-funded schools.

One was in Wales - Glyndwr University - and the other three in Northern Ireland: St Mary's University College, Belfast; Stranmillis University College, Belfast, and the Ulster University.

A breakdown of the 24 Russell Group universities - among the most selective in the country - shows nine (37.5%) had seen a fall in state-funded entrants between the two years, while the other 15 (62.5%) had seen a rise.

Among these leading institutions, Queen's University, Belfast, had the highest proportion of pupils educated at state-funded schools at 98.1%, followed by Queen Mary, University of London, at 90.1%.

The data, published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa), classifies all schools in Northern Ireland, including the Catholic maintained sector, as 'state'.

Hesa said: "In Northern Ireland, all schools are categorised as state in the lookup file used to produce the widening participation indicators. Although there are fee paying schools, the schools also receive some state funding."

Overall, in England 90% of UK young university entrants in 2016/17 were state-educated, along with 92.1% in Wales, 86.5% in Scotland and 99.2% in Northern Ireland.

Across the UK, two in five universities have seen a drop in the proportion of students from state schools, the official statistics show. They indicate significant differences between universities in the proportion of state-educated young people they admitted in 2016/17.

The data also shows that just over a third of the UK's top institutions have seen a fall in the numbers of students from the state sector.

The figures come amid a continued push by government and the higher education sector to widen participation - encouraging students from all backgrounds to study for a degree.

Overall, nine out of 10 new UK university students in 2016/17 were educated at state schools, figures show.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said he was "encouraged" by the proportions of university students from state schools and disadvantaged areas.

Belfast Telegraph

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