The Office of National Statistics released figures last week illustrating that the North East has the lowest figure for participation in higher education, with only 29% of residence having attended university. In comparison inner city London has the highest number of graduates, at 60%.
This North/South divide is prevalent at the University of Nottingham (UoN), with many students reporting that the University seems predominantly Southern, and that ‘Northerners’ appear outnumbered and sometimes excluded.
“Last year, only two people out of my group of twelve hall friends weren’t from London”.
The official figures from the intake of UK undergraduate students in 2012/13 at the University generally support the assumption that UoN largely consists of students who originally resided in the South.
27% are reported to come from the South East whilst 19% are from Greater London. This contrasts with 6% from Yorkshire and Humber, 9% from the North West and 2% from other areas in the North.
Undergraduate students especially noted this divide in their first year spent in university accommodation.
A second year Medic commented: “Last year, only two people out of my group of twelve hall friends weren’t from London.”
The South East contributed to the second largest number of postgraduate students.
This sentiment was echoed through the views of a second year Sociology student, who stated: “A lot of people at the University are from the South, I have met hardly anyone from the North. This gives the whole University quite a ‘southern’ feel.”
Nevertheless, 48% of the University’s postgraduate research students in 2012/13 came from the East Midlands. Yet, the South East still contributed to the second largest number of postgraduate students, at 11%.
There is extensive debate about whether the under-represented areas of the UK are a reflection of lower socio-economic backgrounds. Consequently, the University is aiming to broaden the accessibility of higher education, to under-represented areas.
Nottingham Potential is a widening participation scheme at the University that promotes higher educational aspiration and supports its attainment.
Due to this initiative, students from local participating schools and colleges now comprise 9% of the intake at UoN, a percentage which has increased from 4% in 2002.
A diverse student population is essential to vibrant intellectual enquiry and a resilient knowledge economy.
Half the students progressing from these schools reside in deprived postcodes. These students contribute to admissions from the East Midlands, which makes up a total of 14% of undergraduate students last academic year.
Nottingham Potential prides itself on making higher education available for all, as 24.6% of UK students who began university in September 2012 were from low-income backgrounds; marking yet another increase from 17% in 2004.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England stated in their strategy statement in 2011: “Widening participation brings considerable public benefit. A diverse student population is essential to vibrant intellectual enquiry and a resilient knowledge economy.”