Leading universities are allocating fewer places to state school pupils, despite a government drive to improve social mobility, figures reveal.
More than 40% of top institutions admitted less students from state than independent schools in the past academic year of 2010-11. The figures show many universities failed to hit government admission targets by a long shot, with 61% not recruiting enough students from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds.
The news contradicts deputy prime minister Nick Clegg's promise to introduce access agreements to the higher education sector to ensure 90% of state school pupils have an equal chance to attend the UK's best universities.
The statistics, released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) named and shamed Exeter, Birmingham and Cambridge among those who saw a drop in state school students.
Out of university entrants last year, 88.7% were from state schools, a decline of 0.1% from the previous year. Around 10% were from low participation neighbourhoods.
The statistics show 16 out of the 24 Russell Group universities admitted fewer state school students.
Ebdon, whose succession caused huge controversy, has publicly admitted his mission is to increase the number of working class pupils at university.