05 November 2004
Increasing numbers of state-educated students are taking up places at the UK's top universities, according to new research from an educational charity.
The Sutton Trust said there had been a 35% rise in the number of state school pupils attending leading institutions since 1997. Figures relating to 2002/03 showed that they made up 68% of undergraduates at the country's 13 best universities.
York and Birmingham did particularly well, with 80% and 79% of their intake from state schools. In contrast, just 55% of the students attending Oxford came from the state sector, and 58% at Cambridge.
Recent changes to the way universities' state school benchmarks are calculated triggered a row between universities and government. Michael Beloff, warden of Trinity College, last month called on the government to 'get its tanks off our lawns' after the proportion of state school students Oxford is expected to admit rose from 69% to 77%.
But Sir Peter Lampl, chair of the Sutton Trust, said ministers should 'ask the new director of fair access, Professor Sir Martin Harris, to work with universities to develop benchmarks which reflect their actual admissions standards, setting challenging but realistic goals for the future'.
Higher education minister Kim Howells said: 'The fact is our universities are getting better at opening up their doors to a wider group of students and this Sutton Trust report is the proof.'