Not as patchy as it looks: Higher education institutions in the UK

Despite the apparently inequitable clustering of universities in certain hot spots across the UK, the correlation between where people study and the distribution of the general population is surprisingly strong. This analysis focussed on the mere geographic distribution and size of UK Universities rather than taking additional features such as quality of teaching or research into account, but already provides an interesting insight into how these institutions are spread in relation to the population:Location and size of universities (by 2011-12 student numbers) on a gridded population cartogram
(click for larger version)

The map created in an analysis produced for Times Higher Education shows the location and size of universities by 2011-12 student numbers on a map of the UK that has been altered to reflect population density. It shows that the spread of universities – when measured against the general population – is relatively even. However, the map does reveal a slight imbalance in some areas, with the North West of England from Birmingham right up to the Scottish border being “underserved” by higher education when compared with other areas.
London and the South East dominate much of the distorted map owing to their large populations, although many of the universities in the centre of the capital are shown by small dots, reflecting the relatively small constituent colleges of the University of London. The separate thumbnail map in the lower left corner of this graphic is a cartogram of the UK that has been redrawn to show the distribution of people studying with The Open University across the four different parts of the UK.

To gain further insights, such an analysis would now have to go further and look at individual elements that indicate the quality of education provided at the institutions, which undoubtedly will create a more unequal picture of higher education in the United Kingdom than the one shown here.

The content on this page has been created by Benjamin D. Hennig for Times Higher Education. The feature was edited by Elizabeth Gibney and was published in the magazine’s print edition on August, 8th 2013.

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