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banner Friday, 6 October, 2000, 01:27 GMT 02:27 UK
State school pupils Oxbridge majority
Oxford has the lowest number of state school pupils
State school pupils are now in a majority at Oxford and Cambridge universities.

But this year's university performance tables show that students from poorer families are still missing out on higher education.

Click here for social inclusion tables
Click here for drop-out rate league tables

Last year the combined Oxbridge average, recorded in the first ever official performance tables, showed that 49.5% of undergraduates were from state schools - this has now risen to 51.5%.

In this year's performance tables for higher education, Oxford is shown to have drawn 50% of its undergraduates from the state sector - and Cambridge has 53%.

The performance tables, produced from data from the higher education funding councils and based on entries in 1998-1999, do not measure academic achievement - but look at factors such as social inclusion and drop-out rates.

After the controversy over the rejection of state school pupil Laura Spence from an Oxford college, these figures show that Oxford has increased its proportion of state school entrants by 3%.

Higher education
1.7m students
43% of 18 year olds enter higher education
Oxford has fewest state schools pupils
Highest proportion of state school pupils at Queen's, Belfast
Lowest drop-out rate at St George's Medical School
Highest drop-out rate at Bretton Hall
51.5% Oxbridge undergraduates from state schools

But Oxford and Cambridge remain among the lowest scorers in this chart of social inclusion, alongside University College London, Bristol, St Andrews and the London School of Economics.

Among those with the highest proportion of state school pupils are Queen's University in Belfast and the University of Ulster, which both recorded 100% of state school pupils.

Each university has been given an individual target - or "benchmark" - for the expected proportion of state school pupils and both Queen's University and the University of Ulster have substantially exceeded their targets, which could in theory be claimed as an under-representation of former public school pupils.

But under other indicators of social inclusion show that universities are struggling to recruit students from the poorest families.
Laura Spence
Laura Spence was at the centre of accusations of Oxbridge elitism

From the poorest quarter of the population, only 12% of students attend university - the same as last year - and well below the national average.

Again the most prestigious universities drew the smallest number of children from poorer families - with less than 10% of students at Oxford and Cambridge being drawn from deprived areas.

The highest proportion of students drawn from deprived areas was the University of Paisley, where 34% of students were from so-called "low participation neighbourhoods".

The tables also show the rates at which students leave courses without finishing degrees - which are deemed important in terms of efficient or inefficient use of budgets.

In the University of North London, Thames Valley and Bretton Hall, more than a fifth of students drop-out of courses - with claims from a lecturers' union that such high figures represent a total loss of 180m a year.

This contrasts with almost no students dropping out of courses at St George's Medical School, Cambridge, and the London School of Economics.

The National Union of Students has claimed that this is the result of financial hardship, with students unable to afford to stay in university - with the universities drawing the poorest students most likely to be worst affected.

The drop-out rates have also divided lecturers and university chiefs, with the Association of University Teachers describing the highest drop-out rates as "astronomical" and a waste of public funds.

While the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals hailed the figures as showing that the UK's university system was the match of any in the world and that drop-out rates compared favourably with international competitors.

See also:

14 Sep 00 | Education
Universities debate funding options
04 Aug 00 | Education
Oxford reveals state school offers
30 Jun 00 | Education
Oxford reaches out to state schools
28 Jun 00 | Education
Universities' funding fears
31 May 00 | Education
'Top-up' fees threat for students
28 May 00 | Education
Ministers plan anti-elitism campaign
05 Oct 00 | League Tables
Social inclusion in higher education
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