July 29, 2011 01:31 ET

Data Visualisations Reveal Latest Controversies About the State of Higher Education in the UK

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(Marketwire - July 29, 2011) - and information designer, David McCandless recently teamed up to create a competition encouraging participants to investigate and visualise newly available data about the diversity of UK university student bodies. The final entries reveal a multitude of new insights about the ethnic diversity of Higher Education student bodies in the UK.

Entrants analysed a variety of data collected by David McCandless, UCAS and other publically available sources, to uncover new findings. The finalists were judged by an expert panel on design, effective visualisation, and journalistic storytelling by industry experts. The panel includes BBC's Russell Smith, Rob Bowen (Art Director at .net Magazine), David McCandless, Andy Kirk of, Chris Bennett of 97th Floor and Elissa Fink from Tableau.

3rd place went to Jon Schwabish, for his investigation into the success rate of applicants by ethnicity. His design revealed that considering only 2.84% of the total UK population are reported to be black (Black/Black British, Caribbean black, African Black), by this definition, black people are actually over represented at UK universities (proportion of black students at all universities = 6%).

Dave Bowker took second place with a visualisation focused on a broad story of ethnicity and regionalisation across all UK Universities. His work displays that acceptance rates are at the lowest they have been in 6 years. In 2010 he also shows a reduction in the amount of UK students accepted to make way for international students.

The winner, Raphael Halloran, entered an interactive piece created in HTML5 that revealed black candidates actually had a higher than average acceptance rate into Durham. While 0.8% of students admitted to Durham in 2009 were black, that is because they had exceptionally low level of entries from black prospective students. By comparison, Cambridge and Oxford have a low proportion of black student entries, and lower than average acceptance rates for black prospective students. David McCandless believes of interactive designs that, "Offer more opportunity for exploration and play and story-telling."

Another interactive entry that received a highly commended award was an interactive Instant Atlas report by the GLA which, graphically visualised data of the socio-economic background of students attending different institutions. The report shows 9 out of 10 areas with the lowest percentage of NS-SeC 4-7 groups are in London, 26% compared with 35% in the UK. The University of Greenwich has the highest proportion of young students from NS-SEC groups 4-7 (55.3%).

Data visualisation is increasingly used to build solid fact-based arguments through simplified visual forms of communication. Now that datasets are more prevalent than ever, it offers new and compelling ways to analyse and interpret the newly available data sets as well as relating this information digestible manner to the average person.

David McCandless explains further why we are seeing increasing amounts of infographics and data visualisations,

"Visualised information is a relief from text, paragraphs and other linear media. That's because it's effortless to look at something, versus reading. Seeing requires little conceptual processing. So you can take in visualised information as you might a landscape. Relax. Explore it with your eyes. Drink in the information. It's actually enjoyable. A relief."

"It's easy to feel like we're drowning in information these days. That's a problem. So the solution might be CONDENSED VISUAL information. Where someone has collected and curated the information for you and serves up a concentrated, visualised dose for your poor information-overloaded eyes."

Notes to editors:

All entrants visualisations can be found here For print quality versions please contact Lexi Mills details below.

Comments and Interview: Instant Atlas is available to comment on interactive design and Judge Andy Kirk.

Details about the competition and Judges biographies:

About was launched in 1995 in response to demands from UK institutions and global students.

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