Elite schools are dominating access to the UK’s top universities, a study has found.
A new analysis of UCAS data published by the Sutton Trust shows eight top schools and colleges sent as many pupils to Oxford or Cambridge over three years as three-quarters of all schools and colleges.
It found that the elite institutions with the highest number of Oxbridge acceptances had 1,310 between them.
By contrast, around 2,900 schools and colleges with two or fewer acceptances sent just 1,220 pupils to either university in the same time period.
The report also found that pupils from independent schools are more than twice as likely to attend a Russell Group university than their peers at comprehensives. The gap is even greater at Oxbridge where they are seven times as likely.
Students from independent schools who apply to Oxbridge and other Russell Group universities are also more likely to win a place than applicants from comprehensive schools.
The analysis of university acceptance rates for 2015-2017 also reveals more than a third (34%) of applications to Oxbridge come from pupils at independent schools, but a larger proportion (42%) of places go to those students.
However, while 32% of applications to Oxbridge are from comprehensively educated students, only 25% of those who gain a place are from these schools.
The analysis also finds big regional differences in the proportion of teenagers who gain a place at Oxbridge.
Several parts of the country had two or fewer acceptances to Oxbridge from comprehensive schools, including Halton, Knowsley, Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, Portsmouth, Rochdale, Rutland, Salford, Southampton and Thurrock.
The Sutton Trust, which runs summer schools to give Year 12 students from less-privileged backgrounds the opportunity to experience life at university, is calling for universities to make greater use of data to recognise the different circumstances faced by applicants.
It also wants all pupils to receive a guaranteed level of careers advice from professional advisers and calls for university access agreements to focus on marginalised geographical areas that are underrepresented.
Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “If we are to ensure that all young people, regardless of their background, have a fair chance of getting in to our top universities, we need to address the patchwork of higher education guidance and support.
“All young people, regardless of what area they grow up in, or what school they go to, should have access to high quality personal guidance that allows them to make the best informed choices about their future.
“The admissions process also needs to change. We have made the case for giving poorer students a break through contextual admissions, but we also need universities to make it clear what grades these students need to access courses.”