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Disadvantaged students more likely to live at home while studying, says report

A study finds that over half of young people in 2014/15 stayed local for university.

Poor students are more than three times as likely to live at home while studying for a degree than their wealthier peers, according to a study.

Moving long distances to study for a degree is largely the preserve of “white, middle class, privately educated young people”, according to the report.

It argues that “student mobility” – whether a student leaves home to go to university or not – is a major issue of inequality in higher education.

The study, published by the Sutton Trust, uses official data to examine whether students who went to university were “commuters” (stayed at the family home) or “movers” (lived away from home).

It found that overall in 2014/15, more than half (55.8%) of young people stayed local for university, attending institutions that were less than around 55 miles away from their home address.

“Only one in 10 students attend a university over 150 miles from home, and those that do are socially, ethnically and geographically distinct groups,” the study says.

Over three times more students from the lowest social class group commute from home, compared with the highest social class (44.9% compared with 13.1%).

“In contrast, leaving home and attending a distant university is too often the preserve of white, middle class, privately educated young people,” the research concludes.

It also finds that taking into account factor such as class, location and attainment, state school students are 2.6 times more likely to stay at the family home and study locally than those who were privately educated.

British Pakistani and British Bangladeshi students are over six times more likely than white students to stay living at home and studying nearby.

And those living in the northern regions of England, especially the North East, are much less likely to be mobile when going to university compared with those in the south of the country.

Leaving home and attending a distant university is too often the preserve of white, middle class, privately educated young people Sutton Trust study

In a foreword to the report, published the week after the Government announced a major review of higher education, Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “In the modern economy it is often those who are most mobile who are most likely to find success.

“Moving away to university can be an important first step.

“Moving to London, or other large cities in the UK, can be an ‘escalator’ for social mobility.

“But too often, the opportunity to move away to attend university is restricted to those from better off homes.”

He added: “A variety of factors, including financial and cultural barriers each play a part in decisions to stay at home or move away.”

  • Lowest social class group - 44.9%
  • Highest social class group - 13.1%

The report makes a series of recommendations, including giving poorer young people more financial assistance to help them meet the costs of moving out to study, and providing support that meets the realities of commuting significant distances to university, based on the student’s background.

Other recommendations are for railcards that can be used at peak times, and petrol vouchers or subsidised bus services for those living in rural areas where train travel may not be possible.

The study also suggests that universities should consider more flexible timetabling of lectures where they have large increases in students commuting from home – such as limiting classes that start early in the morning that require students to travel at expensive, peak times.

One of the report authors, Dr Michael Donnelly, of the University of Bath, said: “The traditional view of what it means to go away to university, moving out and far away, is very much the preserve of white, middle class and privately educated young people from the south of England.

“These differences represent a consistent and growing divide in higher education experiences.

“Whilst moving away is not for everyone, some of the most disadvantaged young people could be being prevented from accessing new opportunities and social networks further afield, or developing important life skills through living independently – further damaging chances for social mobility.”

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