Introduction to POLAR
The POLAR classification looks at how likely young people are to participate in HE across the UK and shows how this varies by area.
POLAR is used to inform targeting, and support analysis, of widening participation activities.
It is also used to calculate HEFCE’s widening participation funding allocations and the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) uses it to measure institution performance.
POLAR classifies local areas into five groups, based on the proportion of 18 year olds who enter HE aged 18 or 19 years old.
These groups range from quintile 1 areas, with the lowest young participation (most disadvantaged), up to quintile 5 areas with the highest rates (most advantaged).
The most recent version of the classification is POLAR4. This is based on the combined participation rates of those who entered HE between the academic years 2009-10 and 2013-14, if they entered aged 18, or between 2010-11 and 2014-15 if they entered aged 19.
See the full report, POLAR4: A local geography classification for young participation in higher education.
POLAR is a widely recognised part of our work on young participation. To improve the understanding and application of POLAR, we have published an evaluation of the classification.
To develop a richer picture of young participation across England, we have published another tool which looks at young participation by areas in the context of GCSE-level pupil attainment.
As part of our continuing work on young participation, we have also produced data on trends in young participation over time. These trends are explored both at a national and local level.
We are in the process of updating this work and are expecting to publish an update to the analysis in Autumn 2017.