Half of top universities' students 'from better-off families'

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The Independent Online

Students from white middle-class families still dominate places at top universities, research revealed today.

The findings show that children from the most affluent quarter of families make up more than half of students at the UK's leading universities.

In contrast, children from the poorest 25 per cent of families make up just 6.3 per cent of the student population.

This is despite Government attempts to encourage more teenagers from low-income backgrounds to go to university.

Millions of pounds have been spent on attempting to widen participation, and the Government has set a target for 50 per cent of young people to be going to university by next year.

The data from market analyst firm Caci, published in the Guardian, shows that children from the richest families (the top two per cent) are more than four and a half times as likely to go to a top university than a child from an "average" family.

Seventeen universities across Britain gave Caci 1,000 random postcodes of full-time undergraduates in their first year.

The data shows that more than half (55 per cent) of students at Bristol, Warwick and Queen's Belfast universities come from the richest homes.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills said: "We want to ensure that the most talented and hard-working children and young people are given every chance to achieve their full potential, whatever their background.

"Broader evidence shows that our hard work is paying off - over 50 per cent of young people from every social class and every region say they want to go to university, and the number of young people from poorer backgrounds entering university rose by over 8 per cent in 2008.

"But there is more to do. Stronger structural links between schools, colleges and universities and schemes like Aimhigher Associates, which link up school pupils with higher education students as mentors when applying to university, are key to ensuring that talent is not wasted."