School Differences in Whether and Where Students Apply to University


Going to university is a key route to enhancing life opportunities for young people and for promoting social mobility. Despite the action of multiple widening participation programs, substantial sociodemographic inequalities in participation to higher education persist. Many factors determine whether a student attends university, however, the potential role of schools in exacerbating or mitigating participation inequalities is understudied in quantitative research. We explore these issues by investigating school differences in whether and to which types of universities students apply to study. This is achieved via analysing student-level linked DfE-Ofqual-UCAS administrative data for A-Level students in England. We find substantial heterogeneity in the probability of making applications across schools, particularly regarding applications to prestigious Russell Group institutions. Crucially, meaningful school differences persist even after adjustment for school differences in student prior achievement and student sociodemographic characteristics. For instance, there is a 10 percentage-point difference in overall application rates between schools at the 25th and 75th percentile in our fully adjusted models. These findings suggest that unmodelled school-level policies, practices, and context may all be influencing students’ decision making, and we draw attention to the potential benefit of examining school effects in identifying unusual schools to serve as case studies for further investigation to understand different application support systems. We conclude that policymakers and university admissions teams would benefit from monitoring differences in application rates across schools and potentially using this information when devising and targeting interventions to widen participation and act on higher education inequalities.

Author Information
Lucy Prior, University of Bristol, United Kingdom
George Leckie, University of Bristol, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: ECE2023
Stream: Higher education

The full paper is not available for this title

Virtual Presentation

Comments & Feedback

Place a comment using your LinkedIn profile


Share on activity feed

Powered by WP LinkPress

Share this Research

Posted by James Alexander Gordon