Lord Patten, who became chancellor of Oxford last year, lambasted public school yobs "with more money than sense" who shamed the university.
Oxford has been dogged by stories of upper-class students misbehaving. Last year four undergraduates belonging to the Bullingdon Club, a secret drinking society numbering some of the university's wealthiest students among its member, were arrested after trashing a pub following a meal.
Lord Patten, in a speech at Green College, Oxford, to mark its 25th anniversary, admitted that the university had "a problem" with attracting talented students from poorer backgrounds if they read about the bad behaviour of its privileged undergraduates.
Research from the Sutton Trust suggests at least 3,000 students every year from modest backgrounds achieve outstanding A-Level grades but choose not apply to the country's best universities every year.
He said: "It cannot be very good for recruitment of able sixth-formers in Yorkshire comprehensives when a bunch of yobs with more money than sense do what young yobs have always done and always will do, that is to behave in ways that shame the families and schools that have lavished advantages on them."
Lord Patten also said he hoped fees would be uncapped by 2030. The present plan will allow universities to charge fees of up to pounds 3,000 a year from 2006. Almost all universities have indicated they will charge the full amount.Reuse content