The Sutton Trust today welcomed new HEFCE research on university access. Commenting on key findings that state school students tend to do better in their degree studies than students with the same prior educational attainment from independent schools and that students from disadvantaged areas tend to do less well in higher education than those with the same prior educational attainment from more advantaged areas, James Turner, Sutton Trust Director of Programmes said:

“HEFCE’s research confirms early Sutton Trust studies showing that when students from state schools get to university, they are likely to do well. Many of the world’s leading universities – in the UK, US and elsewhere – recognise that it is much harder to excel academically in some schools than others, and they use contextual admissions to help recruit bright students from less advantaged backgrounds. As this research suggests, it is also important that those from disadvantaged and minority ethnic backgrounds have the right support at university so that they stay the course and go on to get good degrees.

“Our summer schools, where we had 12,000 applicants for 2,000 places this year, play a big role in encouraging bright state school students to aim for the top universities in the UK and US.  This research suggests once there, such students go on to do well.   The analysis is a valuable contribution to our understanding of what factors should to be considered in the important decisions about who to admit to our universities.”


  1. The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 140 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to access to the professions.
  2. The Sutton Trust’s week long UK summer schools are designed to give bright students from non-privileged homes a taste of life at a leading university.  The programme reaches over 1,900 sixth form students across ten leading universities – Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Imperial, King’s College London, Nottingham, the Royal Veterinary College, St Andrews and UCL. Independent evaluation has shown that young people have a significantly higher chance of going to a leading university if they attend one of the summer schools, with over three quarters (76%) going on to a leading university (either a member of the Russell or 1994 Groups) compared to just over half (55%) of students with similar academic and social profiles who did not apply to the scheme.
  3. Research for the Sutton Trust by the National Foundation for Educational Research found that, on average, students from comprehensive schools are likely to achieve higher degree classifications than students with similar attainment from grammar and independent schools.

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