Intelligent pupils from poorer homes should be guaranteed a place at a leading university, a report claims today.
It calls on the UK to adopt a scheme based on one in the US, which would allow the most able GCSE pupils at disadvantaged schools to be selected for access programmes at elite universities.
They would be guaranteed a place at the university once they had successfully completed it. A trial of the scheme at Leeds and Exeter universities will be announced this year. A report for the Business Innovations and Skills Department and the education charity the Sutton Trust reveals an imbalance between the number of state and independent school leavers at Britain's 13 most selective universities.
It says that if places in the top 500 courses were awarded on academic qualifications alone, a further 4,500 state school leavers would be enrolled. It argues that thousands of state pupils do not apply for the prestigious courses, sparking claims that teachers have too low aspirations for their pupils. "Many highly able pupils ... wrongly perceive the most prestigious universities as 'not for the likes of us' and often lack the support and guidance to overcome this misconception," said Sir Peter Lampl, the chairman of the Sutton Trust.