New research published today shows that non-privileged young people have a significantly higher chance of going to a leading university if they attend one of the one week university summer schools sponsored by the Sutton Trust. In some cases the summer schools ‘reduce completely’ the disadvantage of coming from a poorer home.

The report by Dr Tony Hoare and Rosanna Mann at the University of Bristol looked at 1,750 students who attended the summer schools at Bristol, Cambridge, Nottingham, Oxford* and St Andrews universities in 2008 and 2009.  It compared their university application and acceptance rates with 30,000 other students in a range of control groups.

The research finds that over three quarters (76%) of the Sutton Trust summer school attendees went 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.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of the Sutton Trust students progressed to one of the host universities, compared to 13% of those who applied for a place on the summer school but were unsuccessful and 7% or less in the other control groups.  The summer schools were found to particularly benefit those from non-privileged backgrounds, reducing the gap in the likelihood of studying at a leading university for those with non-graduate parents, living in deprived neighbourhoods and from poorer homes.

The reports authors conclude: “Our study provides strong empirical evidence that summer schools do work from the perspective of the host universities, the Sutton Trust, the students and society as a whole, which benefits from identifying something that kick-starts social mobility.  Not only does the summer school experience encourage all attendees to target the more elite universities, but what is particularly encouraging is that they reduce, sometimes to vanishing point, the greater reluctance of the more under-privileged groups to do so.”

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, commented: “Such has been the success of our summer school scheme over the last fifteen years that this year we have expanded it to three more universities – Durham, ImperialCollege and UCL.  Across the programme we will now be offering over 1,000 places over 50 subjects at seven universities. Applications for this year’s summer schools opened on 10 January and close on 9 March. We want to hear from academically able students who meet the eligibility criteria – as this research shows, it is often a life-changing experience.”

The report found that 99% of the students accepted on the 2008 and 2009 summer school courses had passed GCSEs with 5 A* or A grades or higher. 91% were the first in their families to go to university. Nearly half met these and the other two criteria of eligibility: coming from a low performing school and qualifying for the Education Maintenance Allowance.

The Impact of the Sutton Trust’s Summer Schools by Dr Tony Hoare and Rosanna Mann of the University of Bristol, Widening Participation Cluster. 

Full and summary reports available from the bottom of this page.

Notes for Editors

The summer schools were started at Oxford University in 1997 by Sir PeterLamplto help children from non-privileged backgrounds accessleading universities. Since then more than 10,000 young students have passed through the programme which the report describes as “the largest cross-university national outreach programme”. During the week students attend lectures, tutorials and take part in social activities as if they were students. They are looked after by undergraduate mentors, many of whom attended summer schools themselves. The programme is oversubscribed by about 7:1.

Sutton Trust summer schools now run at seven leading universities: Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Imperial, Nottingham, St Andrews and UCL.  More details at

Oxford University was part of the programme up until 2010 and now runs its own summer school based on the Sutton model.

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