18/01/2012 06:24 GMT

Summer Schools Increase University Chance By 50%, Claims Sutton Trust

Disadvantaged young people who attend summer schools are 50% more likely to go on to top universities than their peers, a report has found.

Research published today shows that young people have a significantly higher chance of going on to a leading university if they go to one of the one-week university summer schools, the Sutton Trust said.

The Sutton Trust aims to improve educational opportunities for young people from non-privileged backgrounds and to increase social mobility.

Its summer schools were started at Oxford University in 1997 by Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl to help children from non-privileged backgrounds access leading universities. During the week they attend lectures, tutorials and take part in social activities as if they were students.

More than 10,000 young students have passed through the programme, and summer schools now run at Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Imperial, Nottingham, St Andrews and UCL universities; since 2010 Oxford University has run its own summer school based on the Sutton model.

Wednesday's report by Dr Tony Hoare and Rosanna Mann at the University of Bristol looked at 1,750 students who attended summer schools at Bristol, Cambridge, Nottingham, Oxford and St Andrews universities in 2008 and 2009.

It compared their university application and acceptance rates with those of thousands of other students in a range of control groups.

The report, The Impact of the Sutton Trust's Summer Schools, found more than three quarters (76%) of the Sutton Trust summer school attendees went on to a leading university - either a member of the Russell or 1994 Groups.

This compared with just over half (55%) of students with similar academic and social profiles who did not apply to the scheme.

According to the report, 23% of the Sutton Trust students progressed to one of the host universities, compared with 13% of those who applied for a place on the summer school but were unsuccessful, and 7% or less in the other control groups.

The summer schools were found to particularly benefit those from non-privileged backgrounds, reducing the disadvantage of coming from a poorer home or having parents who did not go to university.

The report's authors said: "Our study provides strong empirical evidence that summer schools do work from the perspective of the host universities, the Sutton Trust, the students and society as a whole, which benefits from identifying something that kick-starts social mobility.

"Not only does the summer school experience encourage all attendees to target the more elite universities, but what is particularly encouraging is that they reduce, sometimes to vanishing point, the greater reluctance of the more under-privileged groups to do so."

Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said: "Such has been the success of our summer school scheme over the last 15 years that this year we have expanded it to three more universities - Durham, Imperial College and UCL.

"Across the programme we will now be offering over 1,000 places over 50 subjects at seven universities.

"Applications for this year's summer schools opened on January 10 and close on March 9. We want to hear from academically able students who meet the eligibility criteria - as this research shows, it is often a life-changing experience."

The report found that 99% of the students accepted on the 2008 and 2009 summer school courses had got five A* or A grade GCSEs or higher, while 91% were the first in their families to go to university - two of the criteria of eligibility for the summer schools.

It also found nearly half met these and the other two criteria of eligibility: coming from a low performing school and qualifying for the Education Maintenance Allowance.