MORE disadvantaged students bagged places at the University of Winchester last year, amid a national push to diversify higher education intakes.

But the universities watchdog says the gap between the haves and have-nots remains stubbornly high, despite "significant efforts and investment" to level the admissions playing field.

Of 1,900 students aged under 21 who started a full-time undergraduate course at The University of Winchester in 2018-19, 275 (14.4 per cent) were from places in the UK where relatively few young adults go into higher education, Higher Education Statistics Agency figures show.

​The proportion has risen compared to the previous year, when it was 13.7 per cent​and means those students account for more of the university's intake than the 11.4 per cent average across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Across the three countries, the proportion of disadvantaged pupils going to university failed to increase last year, despite a continued push to boost numbers.

The proportion has risen only slightly since 2015-16, when it was 11.1 per cent.

The figures also reveal wide variation between institutions.

While some universities took more than a quarter of their students from disadvantaged areas, the proportion was less than 5 per cent at one in five institutions.

A University of Winchester spokesperson said: "We work closely with a large number of local schools and colleges on initiatives which aim to inspire young people to consider going on to study at university, especially when they live in areas where very few people traditionally go on to higher education.

"Our initiatives include hosting school visits and summer schools, holding workshops in schools, and compact partnerships and they all help to encourage students to raise their expectations about studying at university level. We also offer contextualised admissions to students who may have had disrupted education, which means that we assess their prior educational attainment and their potential in the context of their individual circumstances. Finally, we provide financial support or bursaries during their studies.

"In our new Access and Participation Plan, we have pledged to continue working with local communities to increase the low rates of progression into higher education and to close the gaps in participation for students from underrepresented groups at Winchester. The statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that we are on the right track."