John Cope, Director of Strategy & Policy at UCAS, said

@UCAS Response to @HEPI_news 'Designing an English Social Mobility Index' report 

Following the publication of the report by the Higher Education Policy Institute,  ‘Designing an English Social Mobility Index’, John Cope, Director of Strategy & Policy at UCAS, said:

“As is often said “what gets measured gets done”, and this is the case in university admissions as HEPI’s report today highlights. The report is correct that more data and better analysis is the key to making sure people have fair access to university, college, or an apprenticeship. UCAS has developed the multiple equality measure (MEM), which avoids fixating on one data set or a narrow interpretation of social mobility, instead combining a range of indicators such as gender, ethnicity, where people live, where they went to school, and parental income. By bringing these together in a single measure, we get a fuller and more rounded understanding of social mobility.

“The UCAS multiple equality measure currently shows that significant progress on levelling up opportunity has begun to slow in recent years, with the inequality gap narrowing an average of 1.1% since 2015 versus 4.4% across the previous five years. The disruption and lost learning caused by the pandemic will inevitably have had a disproportionately harmful impact on pupils from a disadvantaged background, meaning a national effort to help pupils catch up is critical if we are to avoid social mobility going backwards.”

In 2020, UCAS data shows a record numbers of 18 year old acceptances from the lowest participation areas: 29,020 UK students from POLAR4 Q1, and over 14,000 acceptances of 18 year old English pupils receiving free school meals (FSM) (as outlined in our report 'What happened to the COVID cohort?').

UCAS supports levelling up and social mobility through the provision of high-quality information, advice, and content to students that supports them in assessing all of their options, ranging from traditional undergraduate courses to apprenticeships. This is delivered via the UCAS Hub - a personalised, digital space for young people considering their post-18 choices, as well as anyone thinking about returning to education. This personalised approach is critical to helping each individual explore their options and make the right decision for them, based on their interests, ambitions and circumstances. Annually, UCAS receives 30 million users and nearly 100 million unique page views of our content hosted on During the pandemic, UCAS enhanced this content through greater social media interaction, including Facebook live events, which help us to engage students and keep them fully updated about the changing situation – this resulted an increase of over 300% in social media engagements. Furthermore, as UCAS events have moved online, this has allowed UCAS to better tailor exhibitions to meet the information and advice needs of our visitors – and ensure that all options available to students, including apprenticeships,  are fully represented.

We will be exploring the issue of how, when, and why applications decisions are made in a forthcoming report on student choice at the end of March.




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