Poor white youngsters in England's former industrial towns and those living on the coast are among the most likely to miss out on university, warns the watchdog for fair access.
"These are the people and places that have been left behind," says Chris Millward of the Office for Students.
White youngsters on free meals or from disadvantaged areas were 92% of those in the bottom fifth, in terms of the likelihood of going to to university. These were particularly concentrated in some areas - such as parts of Nottingham, Great Yarmouth, Barnsley, Sheffield, Stoke and Hull.
Mr Millward, director of fair access, warns that these communities, "over successive generations", have missed out on the rise in access to universities. "The expansion of educational opportunities, and the belief that equality of opportunity would flow from this, have not delivered for them. So they are less likely to see education as the way to improve their lives," writes Mr Millward. He identified particularly low entry rates in "former industrial towns and cities across the north and midlands, or coastal towns".
white students on free meals in London seemed to have bucked the trend, with an the entry rate that "has pulled away from that in other parts of the country" - and the capital overall has higher rates of going to university.
Figures from the Department for Education last year reported that "male white British free school meal pupils are the least likely of all the main ethnic groups to progress to higher education".
Across all pupils eligible for free meals 26% went on to university by the age of 19, but for white pupils on free meals the figure was 16% - and only 13% for boys.
In comparison, 59% of youngsters from black African families on free meals went to university and 32% of black Caribbean youngsters eligible for free meals.
Among youngsters from Indian families on free meals, 57% went to university and 47% among Pakistani youngsters on free meals.
Although they have a lower entry rate, white students are by far the biggest group, representing more than 70% of students in England.
In 2019, across all groups, the proportion of people going to university by the age of 30 crossed 50% for the first time.