Thousands of state school pupils are not applying to the most selective university degree courses despite having the A-levels to secure a place, new research shows.
The report reveals that pupils from top performing independent schools on average make twice as many applications to leading research universities than their peers from state comprehensive schools with similar average A- level results. Application rates from Further Education colleges, meanwhile, were less than half of those from other types of schools with similar average exam results.
The study also shows that if university participation patterns were the same for those in the state sector  in England as independent school pupils with similar ‘academic’ A level results, over 4,500  extra state school students each year could enter the 500 university courses with the most demanding entry qualifications.
The research, undertaken jointly by the Sutton Trust and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, analyses information on hundreds of thousands of students using UCAS applications data and the National Pupil Database.
Chairman of the Sutton Trust, Sir Peter Lampl said: “This research shows that even with the right grades in the right A Level subjects, thousands of state schools each year do not apply to the most academically selective degree courses. Many highly able pupils from non-privileged backgrounds wrongly perceive the most prestigious universities as ‘not for the likes of us’, and often lack the support and guidance to overcome this misconception.
“As well as underlining the continued need for outreach activities like summer schools, with A Level results being published next week, this timely research provides yet another compelling reason to reform the university application system. Students should be able to apply to higher education on the basis of their actual results rather than predicted grades, which can be inaccurate. This simple step towards post qualification applications would give many non-privileged students the confidence to aim that little bit higher.”
Key findings of the research include:
Offer rates 
1. Including maintained schools , sixth form colleges and genera /tertiary FE colleges,
2. Made up of 2,333 students from comprehensive schools; 1,277 from FE colleges; 693 from Sixth Form colleges; and 315 from selective state schools
3. These are 13 highly selective universities which came top of an average ranking of the newspaper league tables in 2000: Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Imperial College, London School of Economics, Nottingham, Oxford, St Andrews, University College London, Warwick and York.
4. For this analysis, core academic subjects were defined as A levels in Maths, English, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, or, History.
5. These findings need to be treated with some caution as they may still reflect differences in individual students’ levels of achievement.