An International Database and eJournal for Outcome-Evaluation and Research


What can the UCAS ‘tick box’ tell us about the progression of applicants who have been in care?



The aim of this research project is to review the types of higher education choices that are made by applicants who registered that they had spent time in care, the types of offers made and the success of the applications.


This research addresses the following objectives:

  • To produce a data subset of all applicants who registered that they had spent time in care for entry in 2008
  • To identify the course choices the applicants made in relation to the type of the higher education institution (HEI), the location (distance from registered address), and the subject group (second layer of JACS groups)
  • To identify the types of offers made to applicants.
  • To identify the success of these applicants


The methodology consists of a data analysis of the UCAS applicant databases and an online survey consultation with HEI and admissions staff. The analysis takes a two stage approach. It first considers the October 15th deadline for Oxford, Cambridge, Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary studies; and it also considers the main application scheme that ends at January 15th 2008.


UCAS introduced the question on whether an applicant had been in care following consultations with key stakeholders, including HEIs, schools and colleges and the Frank Buttle Trust. This question was incorporated into Apply in 2006 and is being used in the application cycle for entry into higher education in 2008.


This research aims to understand who the group of applicants are and how the collection of information is used by the HEIs and admissions staff.


The way of understanding this process is by using the application data to describe the group socio-cultural characteristics of the applicants who have registered that they have spent time in care. This includes the descriptive statistics (including frequencies) of applicant groups - to identify trends in gender, age, socio-economic status, domicile, ethnicity and qualifications already achieved and prior institution attended. There follows a comparison with the overall applicant population who have applied at those points in time.


A consultation takes place with representatives from HEIs via the use of online surveys in order to understand how the information is being used.


In order to establish which institutions are making these applicants offers and in turn are being converted into acceptances, the research identifies applicants' course choices in relation to the type of the HEI, the location, distance travelled, and the subject group (second layer of JACS groups) of applications. This includes an analysis of the course choices, institution locations, subject groups (JACS) chosen and type of HEI (Russell Group, Post-92, 1994 Group).


There is an identification of the types of offers (conditional, unconditional) made to applicants who have been in care and whether any discrepancies exist between this particular group and other applicants.




Key findings

  • There were 5.6% more women in the 'care' group at the October 15th deadline, compared to the overall number of applicants and this increased to 7.7% by January 15th. This means that by the January deadline nearly two-thirds were women compared to just over half in the rest of the applicants.
  • 'Care' applicants are generally older than the average applicant with nearly twice as many 'care' applicants in the 21 to 24 category, three times as many in the 25 to 39 category and nearly four times as many in the 40 and over category as there were in the group of all applicants.
  • By October 15th 90% of 'care' applicants reported 'No disability' compared to 96% of all applicants. The difference dropped to 4% by the January deadline.
  • 'Care' applicants were more likely to be from an ethnic minority group with 26% of Black applicants in the 'care' group compared to just over 5% in the applicant group overall.
  • 'Care' applicants are less likely to be from the 'Higher Managerial' and 'Lower Managerial' socio-economic groups although there was a very large unclassified group.
  • Applicants that identified they had spent time in care were more likely to be from Further Education school types and less likely to be from Independent, Grammar or Comprehensive school types.
  • The biggest difference was found between the 'care' group and the overall applicant group with 39% of 'care' applicants declaring that their parents had no experience of higher education compared to 19% for the overall group of applicants.
  • The biggest category of 'care' applicants were from London with 32% of the applicants at October and 30% in January. This compares to 15% and 13% for the corresponding deadlines in the overall applicant group.
  • 'Care' applicants are twice as likely to make between one and three applications compared to the average applicant.
  • By the January deadline 13.6% of 'care' applicants had made only one application compared to an average of 7% overall.
  • From the 'care' applicant group, 62% had made five applications compared to 71% overall.


Recommendations and implications

With only 6% of care leavers progressing on to higher education there needs to be a greater emphasis on understanding the needs of these applicants. Identifying the different backgrounds and experiences of care leavers provides one way of helping HEIs understand the different needs which they must meet.


Contact details

Joanna Papageorgiou, Research Team, Policy and Communications, UCAS, Rosehill, New Barn Lane, Cheltenham, GL52 3LZ. UK.

Tel: +44 (0)1242 544760                     

Fax: +44 (0)1242 544954

Email: j.papageorgiou@ucas.ac.uk

Website: www.UCAS.com


© copyright 2022 Outcome-Network.org all rights reserved, in partnership with FondazioneZancan | iaOBERfcs | read the legal notice.