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Saturday, 7 December, 2002, 04:05 GMT
Fee-paying pupils 'gain worst degrees'
Graduates
Private pupils have less chance of getting a first
The UK's most expensive private schools are producing pupils who achieve the worst grades at university, according to research.

An eight-year study of graduates' results by researchers at the University of Warwick suggests that the more parents pay in school fees, the less chance their children have of getting a good degree.

They believe this is due to the fact that A-level results are a product of both potential ability and coaching - the better the coaching, the lower the natural ability a student needs to get the A-level grades necessary to gain a university place.

However, once at university, potential ability becomes more important and the boost provided by the independent schools' coaching does not continue.

I think it is a bit of a cheap shot

Dick Davison, Independent Schools Council
The research was revealed to the BBC's Newsnight programme days before head teachers from independent schools are set to express their concerns about universities' admissions policies.

They will meet Higher Education Minister Margaret Hodge on Monday to discuss what they feel is discrimination against their pupils as a result of the government's "widening participation" policy.

Dr Robin Naylor and Dr Jeremy Smith of Warwick University's Department of Economics analysed data from the Universities Statistical Records, covering every student at a UK university from 1985 until 1993.

They found that a student from an independent school has an 8% lower chance of getting a first or an upper second degree than a state school pupil who enters university with the same A-level grades.

Coaching

Further analysis of data relating to the 1993 graduates also revealed a correlation between this effect and the level of fees a school charges.

Dr Smith told Newsnight they had found a great deal of variation around the type of independent school pupils attended.

"We found that the students - the independent school students - who were the least successful in fact went to the highest fee-paying schools," he said.

"So in fact I think the headline figure we got from that was roughly if you pay an extra 5,000 at an independent school, you are around 4% less likely to get a good degree, for every extra 5,000."

Dr Naylor believes that it is therefore "not inappropriate" for a university's admissions policy to take account of an applicant's school background as well as their A-level performance.

'Cheap shot'

Dick Davison, of the Independent Schools Council told The Times newspaper that it was "silly" to relate fee scales to degree performance because cheaper day schools were often highly selective.

He said the most expensive boarding schools charged for a variety of services unrelated to academic performance.

"I think it is a bit of a cheap shot," he said.

"I think that the universities are rather less keen to accept that pupils find the teaching in many universities to be poorer than that which they enjoyed at school."

See also:

07 Oct 02 | Education
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