The richer you are, the more likely you will get into a top university, says report

Rates of success between rich and poor is not simply down to grades

Teenagers from working-class backgrounds are up to three times less likely to attend a top university than their financially well-off classmates, despite sometimes having the grades needed to gain a place, research suggests.

A new study has suggested that the disparity in the numbers of advantaged and disadvantaged youngsters attending university is not solely related to their academic performance at school.

The study, commissioned by the Sutton Trust, looked at the numbers of children attending top universities in England, the US and Australia who came were from different economical backgrounds.

It found that in England, children with professional parents are about three times more likely to attend a Russell Group institution - considered among the best in the country - than those from working-class homes.

About 73 per vent of this gap was attributed to the pupils' previous academic achievement, the study concluded. It argues that some of the discrepancy is "unexplained" and it could be that many students from lower-income families with decent grades may be choosing to go to other universities.

The research also found that the real cost of going to a top university in the US may be less than attending a similar institution in England, despite higher headline fees.

It concluded: "Although academic achievement up to age 18 can explain a great deal of the socio-economic gap in elite university access, it does not completely remove it. At least a quarter of the difference in England, the US and Australia is not explained by academic ability."

The study notes that at the top English universities only one in eight young undergraduates come from "lower" occupational backgrounds, compared to more than half at some of the newer institutions.

More than two fifths of students attending Oxford and Cambridge went to private school while at some of the modern universities the figure is two or three per cent, the report said.

Dr John Jerrim, of the Institution of Education, University of London, who conducted the study, said: "Although academic achievement is an important factor, a substantial proportion of the elite university access gap in each country remains unexplained.

"This suggests that there are working-class children who, even though they have the grades to attend, choose to enter a non-selective institution instead."

The study, due to be presented at a Sutton Trust summit on university access, also examined the cost of a university education.

It found that while the "sticker price" or headline fees at top private US universities are usually much higher than those in England, where the maximum fee allowed is £9,000, generous financial support means that poorer students often graduate with less, or no, debt.

Average fees are £9,000 a year at Oxford and £24,200 at Harvard, the study says.

Once living costs and accommodation is taken into account, the overall price of going to Oxford is around £16,600 a year while Harvard is £37,333, it argues.

But a Harvard student from a family with a household income of £27,500 would only be expected to find £2,019, while a similar student at Oxford - which does offer generous financial support - would need to find around £11,300.

An Oxford student with a household income of around £10,000 would have to contribute around £3,550 and a Harvard student would pay around £865.

In England, the money would be repaid with interest once the student was working, with payments linked to salary, and in the US it is usually paid off through a work-study programme.

Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said: "This new research confirms that there are many able children either not applying or not being admitted to the best universities, and this is true internationally."

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said "students not only need good grades, they need them in the right subjects".

An Oxford University spokesman said the research failed to acknowledge that Oxford students could earn money by working during their vacations or to make any distinction between US system where fees have to be paid up-front, and the UK's loan-based system where repayments are made after graduation according to income.

He added: "Simply, like is not being compared with like."

Additional reporting by Press Association

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing software co...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate / Digital Account Exe...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to join...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager / Graduate Trainee

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Key Sales Account Manager/Graduate Trainee i...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas