Study shows degree result variations

Published on Friday, 28 March 2014 15:30
Written by Daniel Mason

Students from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to do less well at university than more privileged peers who previously achieved the same educational attainment, a study has found.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England assessed the performance of 130,000 18 and 19-year-olds with three or more A-levels, who started a full-time first degree in 2007-08 - and looked at their results up to August 2011.

It showed that 77% of those from the most advantaged areas with ABB at A-level went on to gain a first or upper second degree, compared with 67% of students with the same A-level grades from disadvantaged areas.

According to the report, there were also significant variations depending on students' ethnicities. Some 72% of white students who went into higher education with A-level grades of BBB gained a first or upper second, compared with 56% of Asian students and 53% of black students.

Meanwhile female students were more likely to achieve a first or upper second than males with similar qualifications.

State school students tended to do better at university than peers from independent schools with the same A-level results, while degree outcomes were not affected by the average performance of the school the student attended when compared to other pupils with similar exam grades, the study revealed.

A student with AAB grades at A-level from a school in the top 20% in the country has the same likelihood of getting a first or upper second as a student with the same grades from a school in the bottom 20%.

Professor Madeleine Atkins, chief executive of HEFCE, said the study made an "important contribution to the growing evidence base on achievement in higher education. We are in a unique position at HEFCE to be able to link school data and higher education data together in this way to give a comprehensive, sector-wide picture.

"The study presents a robust and independent set of findings to inform discussion and debate, and to stimulate action. Further work - by HEFCE, by the sector and by government - will be needed to understand why these effects are happening, and what sorts of interventions will be most effective in bringing about positive change."

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