Durham sixth in The Times’ Good University Guide, yet second lowest for social inclusion

The Times found that just 48.7 per cent of Durham admissions were from state school students


Today, 18th September, The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide for 2021 was released. Whilst Durham University ranked sixth overall in the league tables, it was simultaneously listed as the second least socially inclusive institution in the country.

The Times found that state school admissions (which does not include grammar schools) accounted for 48.7 per cent of entrants to Durham University. 16.9 per cent of entrants were grammar school students, and 34.3 per cent from independent schools. The time period over which this data was collected is not stated. Sunderland University, also in the North East of England, was found by The Times to be the country’s most socially inclusive.

Levels of social inclusion are measured using eight different metrics: The proportions of entrants taken from non-selective state schools, ethnic minorities, and areas of low participation in higher education; those who are first-generation students, mature or disabled; the black attainment gap; and the gap between the dropout rate of students from the areas of the country with the lowest participation rates in higher education, compared to the rate for students from the rest of the country.

Data on student inclusion and student mix for Durham University. Source: The Times

On the findings, Professor Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “We aim to attract the brightest and best students with the merit and potential to succeed here, regardless of their background.

“We recognise that we have more to do enable students from Low Participation Neighbourhoods to access a Durham education, and we are doing it. Our latest Access and Participation Plan is by far our boldest yet.”

Durham currently offers a wide selection of programmes which aim to widen participation. These include the running of Sutton Trust Summer Schools, Space to Explore Potential (STEP) programmes, and the issuing of contextual offers. For students from the North East, the university also offers the Supported Progression programme, as well as the Durham Inspired scholarships which were launched earlier this year.

The overall ranking of Durham at sixth place is an improvement on last year’s performance, where the university came seventh, and comes just two weeks after being listed at fourth place overall in The Guardian’s 2021 league table for best UK universities. The Times’ Good University Guide, which consists of 67 subject league tables and an overall league table, also provides a league table assessing the levels of social diversity and inclusion within UK universities. Cambridge University topped the 2021 table overall, but was also marked as the worst in the country for levels of social inclusion.

This year, Durham University achieved a score of 79.0 per cent from the 2020 National Student Survey for teaching quality, and 76.2 per cent for student experience – two of the measures used as part of The Times’ overall rankings.

In contrast with previous league tables, this year’s guide will consider the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on student life and experience. This factors in the accommodating changes universities will have made to the delivery of teaching, from online classes to changes to the capacities of lecture halls and other study spaces.

Durham University’s Access and Participation Plan can be found in full here.

The new edition of the Good University Guide 2021 can be accessed here. A free 96-page supplement will also be printed this weekend in The Sunday Times (20th September). 

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