Just under half of young people in Northern Ireland applied for university this year, it has been revealed.
Statistics suggest a youngster’s chances of applying for a degree course depend heavily on where they live, with teenagers in some parts of the UK being around four times as likely as their peers to apply to go to university.
A Press Association analysis of UCAS data revealed that on average this year, 55% of 18-year-olds living in the top 10% of parliamentary constituencies in terms of university applications applied for a degree course by the main January 15 deadline.
Just 24% of youngsters living in the bottom 10% of constituencies applied by the same point.
Northern Ireland has the highest application rate this year, at 48%, followed by England, where more than one in three (37%) have applied, and then Wales at 32%.
In Scotland, a large proportion of higher education is provided by Scottish colleges, which are not included in the Ucas data.
Sir Peter Lampl, founder and executive chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “The massive difference in the numbers going on to university between the top and bottom constituencies reflects the fact that the chances of getting to university are very much dependent on where you live and where you go to school.”
He added that further work, such as more summer schools and support for clever pupils, is needed, focusing on areas with lower attendance rates.
The statistics also indicate that young people in Tory seats are slightly more likely to apply than those in Labour constituencies.
The average application rate across 328 Tory constituencies was 38%, compared with 34% across 231 Labour seats.