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Tuition fee rise accompanies fall in state school students going to university

State school entrants drop by 4 percentage points while independent school numbers remain high

Data released this week by the Department for Education show a four percentage point fall in state school students going to university in the year that tuition fees were raised from £3,000 to £9,000 per year.

The figures, in a report called ‘Widening Participation‘,  show a decrease of the total number of state school students attending university from 66% in 2012/13 to 62% in 2013/14.

The percentage of students from independent schools going to university was 85% in the 2013-14 cohort, leaving a 23 percentage point difference between state and independent school students. The proportional difference between state and independent higher education entrants has ranged from 23pp to 26pp since 2009.

There was no discernible effect of tuition fee rises on independent school entrance numbers in 2013-14.

There was also no effect on the proportion of students from state schools entering the most selective institutions, including Oxford and Cambridge, which remained at 23% across the same period. The figure for independent school students was 63% in 2012-13 and 64% in 2013-14.

The report described the data as showing “a flattening of rates around the time of the change in tuition fees, followed by increased rates in later cohorts”.

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner pointed to the figures, suggesting that “it doesn’t take a genius to work out that by tripling tuition fees to £9,000 a year, the Tories have put a huge barrier to higher education in the path of students from low and middle-income families.”

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said “we are seeing record numbers of disadvantaged young people going to university”, but that the gap between independent and state school students in university entrance is “still persisting”.

Figures released by the University of Oxford on 2015 entrance showed that 55.6% of acceptances were made by state school students, versus 44.4% from independent schools.

The report comes two weeks after the announcement that tuition fees will rise for the first time since 2014, from £9,000 to £9,250.

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