State sector 'failing pupils trying for top universities'

Billions of pounds spent on higher education access schemes to improve state school pupil intake

The universities minister has accused state schools of not doing enough to help pupils apply to top universities, saying that private schools will continue to be over-represented unless state-educated pupils get the same level of coaching and support.

Bill Rammell's warning comes as new figures show that universities have only slightly improved their state school intakes despite billions of pounds spent on access schemes. Leading universities said that the poor quality of schooling was in part to blame. Rammell said the government was determined to tackle the difference in support for university applicants from state and independent schools.

He confirmed that he is considering plans with ministers from the Department for Children, Schools and Families to publish schools' acceptance rates to top universities to expose those which are failing to push pupils - an idea fiercely opposed by teachers.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) today publishes its annual performance indicators, which show that the proportion of recent school leavers starting degrees from state schools has risen from 86.9% in 2005-06 to 87.2% in 2006-07. Currently 93% of pupils are state educated.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "Over the past decade, in England alone, nearly £3bn has been spent on measures to widen social class participation in higher education. We welcome the priority that has been given to this area. But there has been little progress."

Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group of research-led universities, said her members, which include Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and University College London, had improved their state school intakes on average twice as fast as the other universities.

"We have undertaken a raft of initiatives ... the fact [is] that they do not apply because of low aspirations, lack of advice and guidance and most importantly, under-achievement at school."

Highest and lowest: Percentage of pupils from state schools 2006-07


Royal Agricultural College 37.5

Royal Academy of Music 42.3

Courtauld Institute of Art 42.9

University of Oxford 53

University of Cambridge 57.6

University of St Andrews 58.7

Guildhall School of Music and Drama 61.5

University of Durham 61.8

University of Bristol 63.1


University of Paisley 98.9

Cumbria Institute of the Arts 99

University of Wolverhampton 99

University of Wales, Newport 99

University of Teesside 99.1

Queen's University Belfast 99.1

Total Northern Ireland 99.6

Source: Higher Education Statistics Agency


Polly Curtis

The GuardianTramp

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