Equality and entry rates data explorer

The 2016 UCAS End of Cycle Report introduces a new way of measuring equality across multiple characteristics. This interactive data explorer covers the new multiple equality measure introduced in the report, as well as a more detailed look at the 18 year old entry rates from different demographics.

The underlying data files can be found alongside the data files for all charts in the 2016 End of Cycle report. If you have any questions please contact us at communications@ucas.ac.uk.

The data explorer is intended for use on desktop computers with mouse control. It's compatible with the latest versions of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Microsoft Internet Explorer browsers. Please refresh your page if it becomes unresponsive.

The navigational buttons below will allow you to move easily between the different sections. A glossary and technical notes (regarding Scotland) can be found at the bottom of this page.

What is the multiple equality measure?

The multiple equality measure (MEM) brings together information on several equality dimensions for which large differences in the probability of progression into higher education exist. These equality dimensions include sex, ethnic group, where people live (using the POLAR3 classification), secondary education school sector (state or private), and income background (as measured by whether a person was in receipt of free school meals (FSM), a means-tested benefit while at school).

These equality dimensions are combined using statistical modelling techniques and a linked data set of pupils in English schools who were aged 18 between 2006 and 2010 (source: National Pupil Database and School Census, Department for Education). The probability of entry to higher education aged 18 is then calculated based on these equality characteristics and their combinations.

These probabilities are then used to aggregate pupils into groups, where group 1 contains those least likely to enter higher education (“most disadvantaged” in this context), and group 5 contains those most likely to enter higher education (“most advantaged” in this context). The composition of these groups, and their entry rates, can then be calculated and the trends in these assessed over time.

Composition of the multiple equality measure

The way in which the multiple equality measure groups are formed means that, within a group, there is a mixture of people with different combinations of characteristics. The following charts show how each individual characteristic divides across the multiple equality measure (MEM) groups.

For example, hovering over the path that links men to MEM group 1 reveals the proportions in numbers, as well as visually due to the size of the link between them. The text that appears shows that 25.6% of men are assigned to group 1, and looking at it the other way around, 73.9% of group 1 are men. Try this yourself by clicking here.

These MEM groups can be explored based on sex, ethnicity, POLAR3 and by free-school meals (FSM).

Pupils from independent schools are classified as a separate group for POLAR3 and ethnicity, because the required data is not available. These pupils are assumed to not be receiving free school meals. Any other pupils with missing data are excluded from this analysis.

Hover over the paths or coloured blocks to bring up their proportions.

MEM groups by POLAR3

MEM groups by ethnicity

MEM groups by sex

MEM groups by FSM

Exploring entry rates by combinations of characteristics

The interactive scatter plots below allow the exploration of entry rates for the individual combinations of characteristics that make up each group in the multiple equality measure.

Entry rates from 2012 onwards can be compared against 2016, with each bubble representing a particular combination of characteristics. The size of the bubble is proportional to the size of that group in the young population and the colour of the bubbles can be chosen to show one of the equality dimensions. These are selectable via the dropdown boxes below.

Only combinations that have a population of least 500 in 2016 are shown. Note, that even with this threshold, random fluctuations in the entry rate will be appreciable with smaller groups. For example, if the population for a group is 1,000, then the entry rate might vary by ± 3 percentage points each year simply by chance.

Hovering over the points brings up an information box with further details on the selected combination of characteristics. Points can be zoomed in and out by scrolling with your mouse wheel. Clicking on the legend text can be used to hide and show the data points from different groups on the chart.

Entry rates by equality dimension

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Differences in entry rates by equality dimension

This chart focuses on the changes in entry rates for 2016, compared to any year since 2012. A data point with a positive difference in entry rate means that the entry rate is higher for 2016 than the comparison year.

Again, only combinations that have a population of least 500 in 2016 are shown. The smaller of the groups are more prone to random variations from year-to-year, and therefore it is possible that changes in the entry rate might occur by chance alone.

Reset view

Trends through time

Entry rates over the last decade for the 18 year old UK population can be investigated in more detail using the line chart below.

The entry rates can be viewed split by different dimensions of equality, which can be selected from the dropdown boxes below. These entry rates can also be filtered to applicants from a particular country of domicile, and again by provider tariff group. For the POLAR3 and sex categories, an additional dropdown box is available to investigate POLAR3 by sex and vice-versa.

For example, the following analysis is available: the comparison of entry rates for men and women from Northern Ireland, to all tariff groups, subset to POLAR3 Q1 only.

For the multiple equality measure (MEM), as well as for the ethnicity and FSM equality dimensions, only English pupils from state schools are able to be shown. The populations for these only include pupils that we have complete data for, and the entry rate is calculated accordingly. The SIMD measure is also available only for applicants domiciled in Scotland.

Hover over the data points to give the entry rate for that year. Clicking on the legend text can be used to hide and show the data points from different groups on the chart.


  • Entry rate: Number of acceptances from a UCAS application cycle divided by the estimated base population.
  • FSM: Free school meals - a means-tested benefit that can be used as an indicator of low income, which has been sourced from the national pupil database (NPD). Changes to the coverage of the free school meal indicator in the School Census for the 2013-14 academic year, affecting those applying in the 2016 cycle aged 18, have made it necessary to adjust identification of the FSM group in the UCAS data. This means that entry rates reported for the FSM and non-FSM groups differ slightly from those in previous end of cycle reports.
  • MEM: the Multiple Equality Measure brings together information on several equality dimensions for which large differences in the probability of progression into higher education exist -- including sex, geography, ethnic group, secondary education sector and income background -- and combines their effects into a single measure.
  • NPD: The Department for Education's national pupil database (NPD) holds a range of information about pupils who attend schools and colleges in England. For this analysis, a link has been formed between individuals attending state schools and colleges in the NPD at 15 years old and those who were 18 years old in UCAS’ data three years later.
  • POLAR3: Developed by HEFCE and classifies small areas across the UK into five groups according to their level of young participation in HE. Each of these groups represents around 20 per cent of young people and is ranked from quintile 1 (areas with the lowest young participation rates, considered as the most disadvantaged) to quintile 5 (highest young participation rates, considered most advantaged).
  • SIMD: the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation identifies small area concentrations of multiple deprivation across all of Scotland, providing a relative measure of deprivation among small areas (data zones). In this report, the SIMD 2012 has been used to group areas in each year in the times series, from 2006 to 2016.
Further information can be found in the 2016 End of Cycle report.


For people living in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, UCAS covers the overwhelming majority of full-time undergraduate provision. Therefore, the statistics on acceptances or entry rates can be taken as being very close to all recruitment to full-time undergraduate higher education. In Scotland there is a substantial section of provision that is not included in UCAS' figures. This is mostly full-time higher education provided in further education colleges, which represents around one third of young, full-time undergraduate study in Scotland. This proportion varies by geography and background in Scotland. Accordingly, the statistics on UCAS entry rates and acceptances in these interactive charts reflect only that majority of full-time undergraduate study that uses UCAS.

From the 2015 cycle onwards, applications to postgraduate teacher training programmes in Scotland were included in the UCAS Undergraduate admissions scheme. Previously, these were recruited through UCAS Teacher Training. In 2015, around 120 courses at providers in Scotland moved into the UCAS Undergraduate scheme, estimated to represent around 2,000 acceptances, mostly aged 21 or over. Comparisons between 2016 and 2014 (or earlier cycles) will be affected by this change.

These interactive charts were created using the D3 javascript library and Chart.js.

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