Colleges 'admit state pupils with low grades'

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The top 13 universities are recruiting state school students with lower A-level scores than their privately educated counterparts, funding council officials said yesterday.

The top 13 universities are recruiting state school students with lower A-level scores than their privately educated counterparts, funding council officials said yesterday.

They told MPs that admissions tutors at Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and the other élite universities are starting to "bend over a little bit" to take account of applicants' schools and social backgrounds.

This is backed by analysis from the Higher Education Funding Council, which was presented at the start of the Commons Education Select Committee inquiry into élitism in higher education.

Bahram Bekradnia, head of policy for the council, said universities were responding to research showing comprehensive pupils gained better degrees than former private school students with similar A-level grades. He told MPs: "Tutors do identify which students are most likely to achieve."

Many universities already offer grade "discounts" to students from schools that have no history of sending pupils into higher education. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said universities were making use of postcode analysis to steer recruitment efforts.

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