By Hannah Hiles
Teenagers from the Midlands are among the least likely in England to go to university, despite increases in the numbers taking degrees.
A new study has revealed a postcode lottery – in some parts of the region fewer than a quarter of youngsters are going on to higher education.
But in more affluent areas this figure soars to more than half.
Every parliamentary constituency in the Birmingham region has overall seen an increase in the numbers of youngsters heading for university of between two and 15 per cent.
The study, published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce), tracked the number of 18-year-olds going to university between the 1998/9 and 2011/12 academic years.
Most of the top places were taken by areas of London, with Wimbledon seeing 68 per cent of youngsters going to university, a 13 per cent increase since 1998.
Across the Birmingham area, teenagers in Walsall North and Erdington are least likely to get degrees, at just 23 per cent (515th place out of a total of 533 parliamentary constituencies nationally) and 24 per cent (510th) respectively. Both areas have seen an eight per cent increase since 1998.
David Winnick, MP for Walsall North, said: “It is of course a matter of considerable concern that less than a quarter of young people in my constituency go on to university; there would, of course, be a number who continue their secondary education in various further educational colleges, as for instance Walsall College itself, which is in my area as well.
“Nevertheless, the local education authority should recognise that the proportion going to university in the constituency is certainly much too low, and there is undoubtedly university potential in many who leave education altogether at an early stage.”
At the other end of the scale, teenagers in Sutton Coldfield are most likely to get degrees, with 56 per cent entering higher education, a six per cent increase over the study period, along with fifty-four per cent of youngsters in Solihull, a 14 per cent increase. This places Sutton Coldfield 28th in the country and Solihull 47th.
Nationally, the north-east was the region where young people are least likely to go on to higher education, although the lowest rates were recorded in Nottingham North with just 16 per cent. The study also found that young women were, on average, around 22 per cent more likely to go on to university by the age of 19 than young men. Andrew Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield, said: “I am very proud and pleased at the contribution young people from Sutton Coldfield make both to the local community and more widely thanks to programmes such as the National Citizen Service and the International Citizen Service.
“It is unsurprising to hear the high percentage of young people from the Sutton constituency who go on to university and, along with others, make a contribution locally and internationally.” The area which saw the greatest increase in the city was Hodge Hill, which doubled the number of youngsters taking degrees from 15 per cent to 30 per cent, placing the constituency 429th in the country.
The MP for Hodge Hill, Liam Byrne, who is also Shadow Minister for Universities, Science and Skills, said he spotted the issue soon after he was elected in 2004.
He said: “We started doing a lot of work with schools in Hodge Hill.
“We obviously had a great group of young people who were not fulfilling their ambitions. We have worked very hard for eight years on this and we are just starting to see the first fruits.”