The proportion of non-privileged students at the UK’s most academically selective universities remains depressingly low, concludes the Sutton Trust’s submission to Sir Martin Harris’s review of widening access into these universities.

The Trust’s submission reviews a range of evidence spanning the last decade and finds for example that while the number of young full-time first degree entrants to Russell Group universities increased by 18% from 2002/03 to 2007/08, the number coming from the four lowest socio-economic groups increased by just 16%. Similar trends exist for other highly selective universities outside the Russell Group (1).

The Trust which campaigns to improve social mobility in the UK is recommending that additional student places should be created at selective universities for those on access schemes or from disadvantaged homes – despite the current financial climate.

Government Performance Indicators in 2002/03 showed that 20% of young degree entrants to Russell Group institutions were from the four lower class groups, which account for 50% of the population. These proportions were essentially unchanged in 2007/08.

New figures in the review also show that three in every ten Oxbridge undergraduates in 2007 and 2008 were from just 100 schools and colleges, the majority of which are fee paying or state grammar schools. Almost 45% of Oxbridge undergraduates were from 200 schools and colleges, while the remaining 3500 schools in the UK accounted for 55% of admissions. These figures show little change from the similar analysis done for Oxbridge admissions for the period 2002-2006, although the dominance of the top 200 schools and colleges has reduced slightly.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “Universities, schools and the government have made considerable efforts to widen access to highly selective universities, and higher education more generally. But this evidence reveals the extent of the challenge we are facing to ensure that background, location or financial situation are not barriers to entering these universities for academically able young people. Access to highly selective universities matters because it is graduates of these institutions that go on to our most influential professions.”

Westminster School produced the most Oxbridge entrants—154—over the two years, with Eton College producing 152 Oxbridge entrants. Four in ten of the university entrants from Westminster School during the two years enrolled at Oxbridge.

Top ten schools in terms of total Oxbridge entrants in 2007 and 2008

Rank School Number accepted to Oxbridge (2007 and 2008)
1 Westminster School 154
2 Eton College 152
3 Hills Road VI Form College 140
4 St Pauls School 107
5 Peter Symonds College 77
6 St Pauls Girls ‘ School 72
7 Manchester Grammar School 71
=8 Latymer School 69
=8 Haberdashers Askes Boys’ School 69
=8 King’s College School 66

 Top ten schools in terms of Oxbridge admissions as a proportion of total HE entrants

Rank School Number accepted at Oxbridge Number accepted by HE Proportion of HE acceptances accepted at Oxbridge
1 Westminster School 154 370 41.6%
2 St Pauls School 72 184 39.1%
3 St Pauls School 107 307 34.9%
4 Perse School for Girls 22 67 32.8%
5 Winchester College 63 208 30.3%
6 North London Collegiate School 65 215 30.2%
7 Eton College 152 509 29.0%
8 Wycombe Abbey School 44 155 28.4%
9 Oxford High School GDST 42 151 27.8%
10 James Allens Girls School 54 198 27.3%

(1) The Russell Group consists of: Birmingham; Bristol; Cambridge; Cardiff; Edinburgh; Glasgow; Imperial College, London; King’s College London; Leeds; Liverpool; London School of Economics & Political Science; Manchester; Newcastle; Nottingham; Oxford; Queen’s. Belfast; Sheffield; Southampton; University College, London; Warwick.