London leads in places for poorer students

London’s newer universities are leading the way in providing opportunities for students from under-privileged backgrounds.

Across England around a third of students come from poorer families. But data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency looking at participation of under-represented groups in UK universities found that 7 of London’s universities take 50% or more.

Students copyThe London role of honour is:

  • Institute of Education (64%)
  • University of Greenwich (56%)
  • Middlesex University (56%)
  • University of East London (54%)
  • London Metropolitan (53%)
  • London South Bank (51%)
  • University of Westminster (50%)

These universities also have a very high level of students from state rather than independent schools, above the national average of 90%.

London has the second highest proportion of independent schools in the country (as reported by Urbs) and there is a marked variation in student admissions from the state sector in London. This ranges from all places going to state educated pupils at Middlesex to just over a third at the Royal Academy of Music. The smaller specialist colleges take far more students from the independent sector.

The more established London institutions that have become global brands, such as LSE, UCL and Kings, have about two thirds of students from the state sector, which is in line with the intake at Oxford and Cambridge.

 Source data


London’s smart, but not smart enough

dreamstime_xl_40134801Which is the smartest city in the world? Regrettably it’s not London. The accolade goes to Spain’s second city, Barcelona, with London coming in third according to the smart city rankings by research company Juniper.

A smart city is not one that has the snappiest dressers or cleverest folk, (maybe London would win there) but one that embraces digital technologies to improve its performance, sustainability and the well being of its citizens.

Juniper used a number of measures to draw up its rankings for 2015. It looked at smart grids for energy use, smart traffic and parking systems, smart street lighting, technological capability, social cohesion and the promotion of open data for citizens.

London and New York performed well across all these measures but Barcelona beat them to the top spot with a consistently above average performance. London excelled when it came to technological capacity and a willingness to engage through making much of the data it gathers open to anyone. But the capital fell short in environmentally positive projects, according to Jupiter.

The top five smart cities for 2015 are:

  1. Barcelona
  2. New York
  3. London
  4. Nice
  5. Singapore

The smart city concept is a growing phenomenon in urban development as city planners embrace emerging technologies and the Internet of Things to create systems which are more efficient, environmentally sustainable and improve the quality of life for the growing urban population. 54% of people globally live in urban environments and that is forecast to rise to 66% by 2050, according to the UN.

More and more people are moving to big cities. London’s population has gone up by 7% in the past 5 years to 8.6 million. Globally there are now 29 megacities with populations over 10 million. In 1990 there were just 10.

To see the London open data sources that were praised in these rankings go to


Traffic pollution battle stalls

Pollution cars copy

The battle with harmful air pollution caused largely by vehicles has stalled.

Data analysis by Urbs of the Daily Air Quality Index collected by the Department of the Environment shows that the rate of small particle pollution in the capital has not seen significant change since 2008.

The index measures the rate of small particles in the air that are largely caused by road transport. It records 10 micrometres particles and smaller ones of 2,5 micrometres that are more harmful to health.

In the period from December 2008 to March this year there was a 15% reduction in the 2.5 micometre particles, but it has gone up slightly in the past 12 months. The rate of the larger particles has remained relatively unchanged with just a 1% reduction.

The air quality index is graded in bands between 1 and 10. The good news for London is that air quality remains in the low risk 1-3 levels. A comparison with other cities commissioned by the GLA in autumn 2014 shows that London has lower levels of traffic pollution than Paris, Barcelona and Los Angele but people could breathe a little more easily at the roadside in Madrid, Berlin and New York.

Source data

International comparison


Better prospects for young Londoners

NEETs_LondonLondon is doing better than the rest of England when it comes to finding jobs and training for 16-18 year-olds or persuading them to stay on at school. Government figures released in March 2015 show that 3.4%of 16-18 year-olds can be classified at NEETS (not in employment, education or training). Across the country that figure is 4.7%.

Neets England 2

London has seen the proportion of NEETS on a downward trend since 2009 and the gap with the rest of the country opened up in October 2014. The proportion of NEETS in the North East of England is now double that of London.
Across the capital only three boroughs are failing to beat the national average – Barking and Dagenham, Islington and Greenwich.

Neets map 2


Source data

Private school? Depends where you live

School Library copyMore than half the children going to school in Kensington and Chelsea are educated in the independent sector. Of the 78 schools in the borough 40 are fee paying.

Only the City of London has a higher proportion of children in private education. There it’s a staggering 90% but there is only 1 state primary school in the borough and 4 independents.

The data from the Department of Education reveals that across London private schooling features strongly with half of the boroughs exceeding the England average for pupils outside the state sector. In the affluent boroughs of Richmond, Camden, Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Wandsworth it’s between 24 and 29%. Across the capital the average is 11% with 7% the average for England.

London has more children in private education than any other region of England except the South East.

Source data

NY beats London in economic power

city towersNew York has kept London off the top spot once again as the world’s most economically powerful city.  There’s a strong rivalry between the capital and the Big Apple over finance, culture and technology but when it came to a set of economic indicators London was runner-up, as it was in 2012.

The rankings results from a mash up of a number of data sets including GDP, financial power, competitiveness and quality of life. New York emerges with a score of 48 out of 50. London was an easy second with 40, beating Tokyo taking third place on 29.

The analysis was done by Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute, which is part of Toronto University School of Management.

Landlords reclaim record number of rented homes

To Let copyMore Londoners than ever are losing their rented home through landlord repossessions. Data analysis by Urbs shows that in the last 3 years the rate of landlord repossessions has risen sharply. And the data shows that this is a particular problem for London, as the rate for England as a whole has seen only a gradual rise.

In the third quarter of 2014 (the most recent data available) there were 4,137 rented home repossessions in London. That’s rate of 2.45 per thousand, and double the rate for England as a whole.

Renting has become more popular as high property prices make buying a home unaffordable for many people. That problem is most acute in the capital, particularly for younger Londoners.

Rising prices have also seen the end of the negative equity trap, which used to lead to large number of mortgage repossessions in London. These have fallen from their peak in the third quarter of 2006 of 1,181 homes to just 218 last summer. That is back to the level for repossessions last seen in 2003.

The picture of home repossessions across the capital shows a clear divide between richer and poorer boroughs. Southwark, Croydon and Newham have nearly three times the number of the more affluent Sutton, Kingston and Richmond.

Landlord repossessions 2 map

Repossession figures are based on county court action rather than actual incidents. Some homes are repossessed without court action and some court actions do not lead ultimately to repossession.

Source data

Breast cancer screening lag

Breast cancer scan copyBreast cancer screening rates for London remain below the national average in England for the fifth year in a row. Data analysis by Urbs shows that 68.9% of eligible women aged 53-70 were screened last year. But that’s 9% below the rate for England as a whole.

London has managed to close the gap over the past five years. In 2007-08 London lagged 16% behind the national average.

The data is collected at borough level and shows a clear division in the capital between the performance of inner and outer London. The four best performing boroughs of Havering, Bexley, Bromley, Harrow all beat the average rate for England. The nine worse performing boroughs were all inner city. Islington came bottom, 24% below national average, followed by Kensington and Chelsea, 22% lower.

Islington’s performance has dropped year-on-year by 15%. During the same period the number of eligible women fell by 2%. Lewisham, Sutton, Croydon, Merton and Kingston also saw a drop in their year-on-year figures but all saw some increase in the numbers of eligible women.

671,463 women in London were eligible for breast cancer screening in 2014. Women aged 50-70 are offered the service as they are seen as the highest risk group who can benefit most through screening.

During the process a radiographer creates a special kind of X-ray called a mammogram, where an image of the breast is created by passing very low dose x-rays through the breast tissue.

In a study in 2011 Cancer Research UK estimated that screening saves the lives of approximately 1,300 women each year.

Source data
More information about breast cancer here.


Childhood obesity highest in London

Obesity_London_ 2The rate of obesity in young people aged 10-19 is 40 per cent higher in London than the rest of England. While London enjoys a good record compared to the national average in all adult age groups the numbers for youngsters suggest future health problems for London families.

Across England 3.1% of youngsters are classified as obese. But in London that figure jumps to 5.3%. In all other age groups London levels are below the national average.

Adult Obesity by age

The data is based upon the Health Survey for England, the Sport England Active Person Survey and BMI information from the Understanding Society study for Health England.

Obesity is measured using the Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters. The NHS’s easy calculator is here.  A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal, healthy weight. Below 18.5 is underweight, above 25 is overweight and 30 and above is obese.

Obesity is broken down into three categories – severely obese, morbidly obese and super obesity. All the children in London are in the first category. Across England there are a small number of teenagers in the other two.

Obesity is linked to a number of health problems, including type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

Source data

Tourists biggest users of Boris Bikes

Tourists and casual customers not London commuters are the big users of the city’s cycle hire scheme, the so-called Boris Bikes.

Boris bikes

Data analysis by Urbs reveals that in 2014 more journeys began from the bike docks around Hyde Park, one of London’s busiest tourist and leisure spots, than the combined total of journeys from 4 of the capital’s busiest railway stations – Waterloo, Liverpool Street, Kings Cross and Victoria.

In 2014 (figures Jan to Oct) 8.3 million journeys were taken using the bikes. Of those, 749,000 began at the Hyde Park bike racks – Hyde Park Corner, Albert Gate, Black Lion Gate, and Kensington Gate. That compares to 214,000 journeys that started at Liverpool Street and 213,000 at Waterloo.

The data also indicates that many users are taking the bikes for a leisurely ride rather than using them to get to a specific destination. More than half of the journeys that started in Hyde Park also ended there.

The numbers gathered by TfL show that commuters arriving from out of town into the city’s main rail terminals are the biggest users of the bikes in the morning rush hour between 7-9am. In that period the top 5 hire locations are all at the big stations, including 3 racks at Waterloo. And users are pushing the bikes back into the racks in the City. The top 5 dropping off points in the morning rush hour are all in the financial district. The average journey time in this period is 16 minutes.

Later in the day the average journey time goes up to 24 minutes and the focus of activity moves west. Across the day the top 3 busiest locations are around the entrances to Hyde Park.

27,000 journeys are taken each day, on average. Across the year it varies from a January average of 15,000 to the peak in July with a daily rate of 35,000. As might be expected the numbers go down on rainy days, though it seems the commuters are hardier folk than the visitors. Weather data shows that on January 29th 2014 it poured with rain and bike journeys dropped by 30% from 15,000 daily average to 10,000. It also rained heavily on August 25th, at the peak of the London tourist season when many Londoners are away on holiday. The 30,000 daily average plummeted to just 6,000, a fall of 80 per cent.

The cycle hire scheme was introduced on July 30th 2010. The Mayor, Boris Johnson, said at the time that it would transform travel for Londoners and visitors.  The data suggests that the tourists have got the message, and commuters who travel into the city to work are the other significant group of users. But Londoners living outside zone 1, who are helping to subsidise the scheme through their taxes, don’t appear to see the bikes as part of the home to work solution.

There are currently 11,500 bikes and 748 docking stations. The scheme was extended to the west and south west of the city in 2013. But many of the new locations are among the least used, including Clapham, Shepherd’s Bush, and East Putney. The Clapham Common site takes the low usage award with just 469 hires last year – an average of 1.28 per day.

Cycling has grown remarkably in the city in recent years. In 2014 600,000 journeys were taken each day by bicycle. The 27,000 daily Boris Bike journeys make up a fraction of that. For most Londoners getting on your bike means buying your own rather than tackling the miles across the sprawling city on a chunky 23 Kg machine.

Source data:

Cycle hire numbers 

Cycle journeys in London