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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 methodology

POLAR classifies local areas or ‘wards’ into five groups, based on the proportion of 18 year olds who enter HE aged 18 or 19 years old.

Map of young participation areas

See how likely young people are to participate in HE according to where they live.

View the map

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).

See a detailed description of the POLAR methodology 


The most recent iteration of the classification is POLAR3. This is based on the combined participation rates of those aged 18 between 2005 and 2009, who entered HE between 2005-06 and 2010-11 academic years.

See the full report, ‘POLAR3: Young participation rates in higher education’.

Related work

POLAR is a widely recognised part of our work on young participation. To improve the understanding and application of POLAR3, 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.  


Further reading

Page last updated 20 January 2015

See also