All ethnic minority groups in England are now, on average, more likely to go to university than their White British peers, according to research by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS).
This is the case even amongst groups who were previously under-represented in higher education, such as those of Black Caribbean ethnic origin, a relatively recent change.
These differences also vary by socio-economic background, and in some cases are very large indeed.
For example, Chinese pupils in the lowest socio-economic group are, on average, more than 10 percentage points more likely to go to university than White British pupils in the highest socio-economic quintile group.
By contrast, White British pupils in the lowest socio-economic group have participation rates that are more than 10 percentage points lower than those observed for any other ethnic group.
The IFS report updates evidence on differences in higher education participation by socio-economic background, gender and ethnicity.
It also explores the extent to which pupils’ performance in national achievement tests taken at age 11, and GCSE and A-level and equivalent exams taken at ages 16 and 18, can help to explain differences in the proportion of students going on to study at university.
The research used census data linking all pupils going to school in England to all students going to university in the UK, containing over half a million pupils per category.
It focused on those taking their GCSEs in 2007-08, who could have gone to university at age 18 in 2010-11 or age 19 in 2011-12.
Percentage of pupils taking their GCSEs in 2008 who go on to university at age 18 or 19, by ethnicity and socio-economic quintile group.
Differences in progression to university between individuals from different ethnic groups were particularly striking.
The report found that school pupils from all ethnic minority backgrounds are now, on average, significantly more likely to go to university than their White British counterparts.
For all minority groups, overall participation rates exceed the White British average. Some of these differences are very large.
For example, Indian and Chinese pupils are, on average, more than twice as likely to go to university as their White British counterparts.
Differences in how well pupils do at school can help to explain some but not all of these gaps.
Pupils of Black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic origin tend to perform worse, on average, in national tests and exams taken at school than their White British counterparts.
Accounting for the fact that individuals from these ethnic groups have lower prior attainment than their peers therefore increases the unexplained differences in participation between ethnic minorities and White British pupils, the report reveals.
The report also considers participation at 52 of the most selective universities.
Most ethnic minority groups are, on average, more likely to attend such institutions than their White British counterparts, but the differences are smaller than for participation among all universities, and could generally be better explained by differences in school attainment.