Location, location, location - executive summary

Research has shown that the cost to the UK economy of educational underachievement is over £18 billion a year*. This report shows how access to education is divided up, using national league tables and an analysis of 21 of our biggest cities. It shows that where you live is a key determinant of whether you will gain qualifications.

The result is a country of stark contrasts - a true postcode lottery for education. To take one example, two out of three people (60%) living in Nick Clegg's Sheffield Hallam constituency have a degree and only 3% have no qualifications at all. However, just down the road in David Blunkett's Sheffield Brightside constituency almost a quarter of people (23%) have no qualifications and just 15% have a degree.

As more people go to university constituencies who have had the highest participation rates in the past have seen further rapid increases in the number of residents with degrees or better. In the 20 constituencies with the highest level of participation in higher education, the proportion, on average, of the working age population with a degree-level qualification and above increased from 48.8% in 2005 to 57.2% in 2008.

However, worryingly, the constituencies at the bottom of the pile have seen academic achievement decline. Between 2005 and 2008, in the 20 constituencies with the lowest level of participation in higher education, the proportion, on average, of the working age population with a degree-level qualification and above fell from 12.6% to 12.1%.

The report shows enormous regional variations in access to education. Of the 20 constituencies with the highest percentage of people with no qualifications, the West Midlands accounts for eight of them and occupies the four bottom spots. Roger Godsiff's Birmingham, Sparbrook and Small Heath constituency has the highest percentage of people with no qualifications (37%) with the Business, Skills and Innovation Minister, Pat McFadden's Wolverhampton South East constituency next (36%).

The other two West Midlands constituencies to make up the bottom four are Ken Purchase's Wolverhampton North East (32%) and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Liam Byrne's Birmingham Hodge Hill (30%). Hodge Hill also has the lowest percentage of people educated to at least degree level - just one in 10. A third of the constituencies with the lowest percentage of graduates can also be found in the West Midlands.

Although a lot of the constituencies with the lowest levels of educational achievement are traditional 'Labour' seats in the larger towns and cities, three constituencies in the East of England feature among those with the lowest percentage of people who have a degree or better. Two of the constituencies, Harwich and South West Norfolk, are held by the Conservatives - Douglas Carswell and Christopher Fraser respectively. The other is Labour MP Anthony Wright's Great Yarmouth constituency, indicating that the issue of providing fair access to education is cross party.

London attracts the highest number of graduates, with 17 of the 25 constituencies that boast the most graduates found in the capital. However underneath that veneer London has many areas where a substantial percentage of the working age population have no qualifications at all - making access to education in the capital a true tale of two cities.

The 21 cities individually analysed in the report are Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London , Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Plymouth, Sheffield, Southampton, Stoke and Wolverhampton.

Location, location, location: full report [496kb]

Location, location, location: full report [408kb]

Location report: national ranking tables [306kb]

  • The data within the report comes from the Annual Population Survey which is a combined survey of households in Britain.  The datasets were extracted from the NOMIS website and are subject to ONS Crown Copyright.