I see in the Ludlow Advertiser Philip Dunne is welcoming the increase in young people applying to go university. He fails to mention that his own constituency is performing worse than much of England. Ludlow used to be ahead of the game but is now trailing behind.
The data released by UCAS earlier this month are really quite shocking. All of Shropshire is falling behind the rest of England in university admissions. We would have more than 200 extra students applying to go to university every year if we achieved the national average.
Ludlow slides down higher education league tables
When Philip Dunne was elected as our MP ten years ago, just 181 of the 533 constituencies in England had a higher rate of university applications than Ludlow. In 2016, 301 constituencies do better than Ludlow. That’s not a good track record.
In 2006, the Ludlow constituency had 2.6% more applications to higher education institutions than the national average of 27.2%. Ten years on, the national application rate has grown to 36.6%. But Ludlow has not kept up and the constituency is now nearly three percentage points behind at 33.7%.[i]
There are around 1,000 eighteen-year-old people in the Ludlow constituency.[ii] The number of eighteen year olds applying to university has fallen by 5.5%. That means that 55 young people around here are not now getting the educational opportunities they would have got in 2006. Even if we just stepped up to the national average, we would have an extra 29 young people in higher education every year.
Shropshire underperforms England
Looking at the rest of the county, Shrewsbury and Atcham has always done badly. In 2006, 26.5% of young people applied for a place in higher education. Now its 30.5%, more than six percentage points behind the national achievement. We would have 91 more young people in higher education if we achieved the national average in Shrewsbury and Atcham.
North Shropshire has performed the worst. Applications have barely grown from 28.0% in 2006 to 30.4% now. This is a dismal record. If the constituency had met the national average, there would be an extra 83 North Shropshire students in higher education.
Whichever way you look at it, Shropshire is not getting enough young people into higher education.
We can’t just pin our hopes on the new university in Shrewsbury. It has yet very few students – just 41 Level 4 UK students.[iii] We have to do a lot more to get young people wanting to enter higher education and helping them get there.
This is a political failure
Our politicians are consistently failing young people in rural districts like ours. This data should be a wakeup call for our county’s MPs.
We need an urgent inquiry into whether Shropshire’s failure to get students into university is due to its school system, a lack of higher education facilities in the county or a lack of promotion of the importance of high level learning. And we need MPs that campaign harder to get young people into higher education.
Philip Dunne told the Ludlow Advertiser:
Latest figures from UCAS for 2016 are encouraging, and show reforms are heading in the right direction… A record level of 18 year olds applying to university is good news for Shropshire.
Philip should look at the data again and explain why his constituency is lagging behind the national trend. He should also tell us what he and his government are going to do about it.
[i]. Participation rates have fallen in other constituencies but just 56 of 533 constituencies have declined more than Ludlow.
[ii]. The most recent population data I can find for constituencies dates to mid-2012. This gives an estimate of 1,004 18 year olds in the Ludlow constituency. This estimate is not likely to have changed much, so an estimate of 1,000 people aged 18 is appropriate to use.