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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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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 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

image for link to polar map

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 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.

Related work

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.


Further reading

Page last updated 27 October 2017

See also