State schooled pupils and Oxbridge entry

In The Telegraph, Julia Hartley-Brewer claims that the low percentage of state-schooled pupils accepted by Oxford and Cambridge represents a failure of state schools. Her argument is that Oxford and Cambridge have high entry standards and independently-schooled pupils are far more likely to meet them, hence the strong representation of those pupils at the top institutions.

She’s partly right. She’s right that independently schooled pupils perform better at A-levels, on average. It’s also true that Oxford and Cambridge have very high entry standards, which favours independently-schooled pupils. However, that does not fully explain the low rate of admission for state-schooled pupils.

It’s fairly easy to check because the percentage of state-schooled pupils admitted is one of the Performance Indicators published by HESA each year for all universities. The indicators helpfully include a benchmark that accounts for, among other things, the entry qualifications of students. That means we can compare the actual state-schooled intake for each university against a benchmark that takes Ms Hartley-Brewer’s concerns into account, along with other considerations, such as age, ethnicity and sex.

The chart below shows that we would not expect Oxford and Cambridge to take a high proportion of state-schooled pupils, largely because of their high entry requirements. However, even against that adjusted benchmark, they underperform.

Young participation in UK higher education

HEFCE publish some great maps of participation in higher education and, even better, release the data. I’ve reproduced the map of young participation rates below with a slightly finer grained, sequential colour map, which I think helps to pick out the regions of low participation. Areas where fewer young people progress to higher education are highlighted in red.

Winners and losers of the past five years

In his evidence to the Treasury Select Committee on the Summer Budget 2015, George Osborne opined that:

…distributional analysis is helpful. It helps inform the debate, and … shows how money is allocated by Government around the different income quintiles of society.

HM Treasury’s draft results have now been published. They show that low income households suffered the smallest pre-tax fall in income Read more

The male wage premium

Wage inequality between men and women has split opinion in the UK after the Government last week announced that all large firms would have to publish the gap in average earnings between their male and female employees. In light of that debate, today’s HESA data on the pay of recent graduates is interesting. It shows that female graduates are slightly more likely than male graduates to be in work a year after graduating, but they earn considerably less.

Of course, that’s not necessarily a causal link Read more

RIP Seamus Hogan

I just heard that Seamus Hogan died unexpectedly last week. Seamus is one of the people I admired most and a role model for any young economist. He always had time to talk through any problem and help out, even for the greenest of young graduates. His loss will be keenly felt by all those who knew him.