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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 July 2007, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
More state pupils in universities
lecture theatre scene
Ministers say more needs to be done to widen the intake
UK universities took a slightly higher proportion of students from state schools last year, figures show.

The rate was 87.4% of young undergraduates in 2005-06, up from 86.7% the year before.

Other indicators of widening participation were also showing improvements, the Higher Education Funding Council for England said.

The dropout rate after the first year of study was down from 7.7% to 7.2% overall though with wide variations.

Two Scottish institutions had the worst records: 25.7% at Bell College and 21.2% at the University of Paisley.

At the other end of the scale, the dropout rate was just 1% at St George's Hospital Medical School and 1.4% at Oxford.

Cambridge's figure was not published for technical reasons but a spokeswoman said it was also "incredibly low".

The annual performance indicators, as they are known, are now published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency and are appearing earlier this year than usual.

State schools

The lowest proportions of state school entrants were in three specialist institutions: the Royal Academy of Music (47.7%), Courtauld Institute of Art (42.9%) and the Royal Agricultural College (42.8%).

Among mainstream universities, Oxford had the lowest rate - 53.7% - with Cambridge next on 57.9%.

At four relatively small institutions everyone was from a state school: Wimbledon School of Art, UHI Millennium Institute, St Mary's University College, Twickenham and Stranmillis University College.

Among the bigger universities Ulster, and Queen's in Belfast, had very high state school entries - 99.9% and 99.5%.

Bedfordshire (formerly Luton) and Bishop Grosseteste College, Lincoln, both had 99.6%.

The next highest ranked in this respect among the elite Russell Group, after Queen's, was Liverpool, on 86.4%.


Looked at over more than one year, the most significant trend is in participation by mature students - those aged over 21 - from the sort of neighbourhoods with no strong tradition of people going into higher education.

This has gone from 13.8% in 2002-03 to 15.6%.

In contrast, the participation of younger entrants from state schools in these areas was up this year to 87.4%, but that was little different to three years previously (87.2%).

The English funding council's chief executive, David Eastwood, said higher education was crucial in a knowledge-driven economy and it was vital to ensure that all who could benefit from it had a chance to do so.

Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said: "The figures are welcome confirmation that we're on the right track, but we must maintain our efforts."

A spokesman for vice-chancellors' group Universities UK said the improvements were pleasing, but added: "Attracting students into higher education is not enough - we need to support them to a successful conclusion of their studies."

The general secretary of the University and College Union, Sally Hunt, said the rise in the number of students from "non-traditional" backgrounds had been only minimal.

"We are still some way from a system where everyone with potential can realise it."

If the government were serious about really opening up higher education it needed to remove more of the financial barriers and ensure staff and universities were properly funded.

  • The latest snapshot of application figures from Ucas suggests applications to British universities overall are rising.

    By the end of June, 494,842 people had applied to start full-time undergraduate courses in 2007, up 5.3% on the same point last year.

    This is consistent with the two previous snapshots released by Ucas which showed increases of 6.4% (February) and 5.2% (April).

    People are still applying now, with applications going into Clearing.

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