Universities 'fail on admissions'
Apr 21 2010 From Mirror.co.uk
Many of the UK's elite universities are still admitting few pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds - despite attempts to boost participation, figures suggest.
And the majority are failing to meet "benchmarks" on the recruitment of state school pupils.
Data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) shows that at 23 UK universities 5% or less of their intake in 2008/09 was made up of pupils from "low participation" - or disadvantaged - neighbourhoods.
This includes seven universities which are members of the Russell Group which represents 20 leading research institutions across the UK. Just 2.7% of Oxford's full-time first degree entrants in 2008/09 were from disadvantaged areas - around 75 students out of a total intake that year of around 2,875.
At Cambridge, 3.7% of the intake was from disadvantaged neighbourhoods - around 105 students out of about 2,930. Bristol, Imperial College, King's College London, the London School of Economics and University College London all took less than 5% of their intake from low participation neighbourhoods, the statistics show.
Overall, 10.1% of full-time, first degree students in 2008/09 were from low participation neighbourhoods. The Government has been trying to boost the numbers of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds going into higher education, and to encourage those who are predicted to get top grades to think about applying to top universities.
More state pupils went to Cambridge than Oxford, the figures show (59.3% and 54.7% respectively). But this was far short of their benchmarks - which are set this year at 69.8% for Cambridge and 69.7% for Oxford.
Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, Queen's University Belfast, Sheffield and Southampton were the only Russell Group universities to exceed their benchmarks.
A Cambridge spokeswoman said: "The university welcomes the way in which this year's performance indicators reflect its efforts on widening participation, with state sector admissions reaching a high point of 59.3%, up more than 2 percentage-points on the previous year's figure.