POORER students in Southampton are significantly less likely to go to university than their more affluent peers – though the gap has closed.

Data from the Department for Education shows that of 343 students in Southampton who received free school meals at the age of 15, 64 (18.7%) were at university in 2019-20.

This was down from 18.9% the year before.

Of 1,638 other pupils in the area not on free school meals, 35% were studying in higher education at the age of 19, which was also down from 36.5% in 2018-19.

This meant that the progression rate gap between poorer pupils and non-disadvantaged students was 16.4 percentage points last year, though this is down from 17.6 in 2018-19.

Across England, 26.6% of pupils who received free school meals at age 15 were participating in higher education in 2019-20, compared to 45.7% of those who did not receive meals.