Page last updated at 16:38 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 17:38 UK

Poor students 'are outnumbered'

Students
Children from affluent homes are still more likely to get a degree

Only one in five students from the poorest backgrounds in England go to university compared to 40% of those from richer homes, new figures show.

A report from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills show the class gap is narrowing gradually.

But the proportion of poorer students going to university has only risen by two percentage points since 2002-03.

The government said it was committed to providing more financial support to students from poorer homes.

The narrowing of the gap in the social classes appears to be partly caused by a gradual decline in the proportion of students from richer homes going to university for the first time.

In 2002-03, 45.2% of students in the top three socio-economic groups went on to university, but this fell to 41.2% last year.

Over the same period, participation among the four lowest socio-economic groups rose from 18.1% to 21% - meaning the participation gap narrowed by seven percentage points.

This gap is slightly wider for women than for men - at 21 percentage points to 19.

The figures only apply to young first-time university entrants in England and do not include anyone who first went to university after the age of 20.

'Aptitude'

The government says the gap in participation has been narrowing more quickly in some of the poorest areas of the country.

Higher education minister David Lammy said: "University should be for everyone and I want to make sure that those with the will and the aptitude to succeed are given every chance possible - regardless of where they live or whether their parents have a degree.

"That's why I'm pleased to see more people from more disadvantaged backgrounds going into higher education, with the proportion increasing by three percentage points since 2002.

"This is testimony to the success of schemes such as Aim Higher, which is working in schools and universities across the country to inspire, motivate and encourage young people to go into higher education."



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