Record numbers of NI school leavers enter university – BBC

A record proportion of school leavers in Northern Ireland have entered university during the past two years.
The figures were revealed in just-published analysis by the Department for Education (DE).
Almost 48% of school leavers entered university in both 2020 and 2021, the highest Northern Ireland rates on record.
In both 2020 and 2021. pupils received grades calculated by schools after summer exams were cancelled.
But there has also been a significant fall in the number of school leavers entering Further Education (FE) Colleges.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair signalled an expansion of higher education when he set a target of 50% of young people entering university, in a speech to the Labour Party conference in September 1999.
The number of Northern Ireland students entering university has risen steadily since then.
In 2004, for instance, just over a third of school leavers entered university, in Northern Ireland or elsewhere, while almost 30% began employment or work-based training.
By 2012, about 42% of school leavers entered university, while the proportion in employment or training had fallen to about 17%.
In 2012, more than a third of school leavers also began courses at FE Colleges.
The proportion of Northern Irish school leavers entering university every year then remained fairly constant until 2020.
But the just-published figures show 47.9% of school leavers in Northern Ireland entered university in both 2020 and 2021.
Almost three quarters (72.6%) of those entering university in 2021 stayed to study in Northern Ireland, but about 2,800 school leavers began university in the rest of the UK or elsewhere.
By contrast, just over a quarter (27%) of school leavers began a course of study in an FE College in 2021.
There have been some calls in recent years for more young people to be encouraged to enter FE or embark on vocational and technical qualifications.
Women in Northern Ireland were significantly more likely to go to university than men.
Well over half (56.3%) of female school leavers entered university in 2021 compared to about four in ten (39.8%) male leavers.
The proportion of girls achieving at least three A-Levels at grades A* – C was also significantly higher than the proportion of boys achieving the same grades.
Pupils from a Catholic background were also more likely to go to university than pupils from a Protestant or "other" background, according to the DE statistics.
Approximately three-quarters of grammar school pupils went to university in 2021 compared to about a quarter of pupils at non-grammars.
The department's Qualifications and Destinations of Northern Ireland School Leavers 2020-21 report has just been published.
It shows a significant jump in A-Level results in 2020 and 2021.
Well over half of pupils left school with at least three A-Levels at grades A*-C in both 2020 and 2021, compared to around 40% in the three previous years.
But DE said that because of the changes to how grades were awarded in 2020 and 2021 "caution should be taken" when comparing how students performed at GCSE, AS and A-Level compared to previous years.
Meanwhile, separate data published by the Department for the Economy estimated that 15,000 young people aged 16 – 24 were not in education, employment or training in January to March 2022.
That is 7.5% of the 16-24 year old population in Northern Ireland.
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