UCL maps London surnames by ethnicity and popularity

James Cheshire's map reveals the pattern of London immigration over the years

James Cheshire, of UCL's Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, has followed up on mapping life expectancy on tube lines with a fun new map showing the top fifteen most common surnames in London by electoral ward.

Looking at the the most common surnames reveals the top-level trends to be roughly what you'd expect: overall, English names are the most common, with Indian and Bangladeshi names having sizeable hotspots (in northwest and northeast London for Indian names, and Tower Hamlets for Bangladeshi names). Welsh names are rather evenly spread throughout the capital, and Sikh, Jewish and Pakistani surnames each have their own focal points.

What's really fascinating is playing with the site's slider and comparing the most frequent surnames with the 10th or 11th most frequent. Some areas stay the same, but just move down the list of common surnames; so, for instance, Hounslow's most common name is Singh, and it's tenth most common name is Sidhu. Others have predictable ethnic mixes. Tower Hamlets, where the Bangladeshi surname Begum is the most common, breaks down to a mixture of Bangladeshi and Pakistani surnames when you get further down the list. And some, like Hammersmith and Fulham, reveal little pattern at all: scrolling through the list gets first English names, then Welsh, then Scottish, Pakistani, Irish and "other".

The full, scrollable, zoomable map can be found here.

The fully zoomed-out map.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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The price of accessing higher education

Should young people from low income backgrounds abandon higher education, or do they need more support to access it? 

The determination of over 400,000 young people to go into higher education (HE) every year, despite England having the most expensive HE system in the world, and particularly the determination of over 20,000 young people from low income backgrounds to progress to HE should be celebrated. Regrettably, there are many in the media and politics that are keen to argue that we have too many students and HE is not worth the time or expense.

These views stem partly from the result of high levels of student debt, and changing graduate employment markets appearing to diminish the payoff from a degree. It is not just economics though; it is partly a product of a generational gap. Older graduates appear to find it hard to come to terms with more people, and people from dissimilar backgrounds to theirs, getting degrees.  Such unease is personified by Frank Field, a veteran of many great causes, using statistics showing over 20 per cent of graduates early in their working lives are earning less than apprentices to make a case against HE participation. In fact, the same statistics show that for the vast majority a degree makes a better investment than an apprenticeship. This is exactly what the majority of young people believe. Not only does it make a better financial investment, it is also the route into careers that young people want to pursue for reasons other than money.

This failure of older "generations" (mainly politics and media graduates) to connect with young people’s ambitions has now, via Labour's surprising near win in June, propelled the question of student finance back into the spotlight. The balance between state and individual investment in higher education is suddenly up for debate again. It is time, however, for a much wider discussion than one only focussed on the cost of HE. We must start by recognising the worth and value of HE, especially in the context of a labour market where the nature of many future jobs is being rendered increasingly uncertain by technology. The twisting of the facts to continually question the worth of HE by many older graduates does most damage not to the allegedly over-paid Vice Chancellors, but the futures of the very groups that they purport to be most concerned for: those from low income groups most at risk from an uncertain future labour market.

While the attacks on HE are ongoing, the majority of parents from higher income backgrounds are quietly going to greater and greater lengths to secure the futures of their children – recent research from the Sutton Trust showed that in London nearly half of all pupils have received private tuition. It is naive in the extreme to suggest that they are doing this so their children can progress into anything other than higher education. It is fundamental that we try and close the social background gap in HE participation if we wish to see a labour market in which better jobs, regardless of their definition, are more equally distributed across the population. Doing this requires a national discussion that is not constrained by cost, but also looks at what schools, higher education providers and employers can do to target support at young people from low income backgrounds, and the relative contributions that universities, newer HE providers and further education colleges should make. The higher education problem is not too many students; it is too few from the millions of families on average incomes and below.

Dr. Graeme Atherton is the Director of the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON). NEON are partnering with the New Statesman to deliver a fringe event at this year's Conservative party conference: ‘Sustainable Access: the Future of Higher Education in Britain’ on the Monday 2nd October 2017 from 16:30-17:30pm.