Report highlights Oxbridge chances
Students from private schools are 55 times more likely to get a place at Oxford or Cambridge University than state school students who receive free school meals, a report has claimed.
New research found private school pupils were also 22 times more likely to go to a top-ranking university than students who are entitled to free school meals (FSM) - the Government's measure of deprivation.
The figures were published by education charity The Sutton Trust in a report investigating access to university.
It said the "stark" gap in university participation began at GCSE level, when students at independent schools were three-and-a-half times more likely than FSM pupils to get five A*-C GCSEs, including English and maths.
This led to less than one in 100 students admitted to Oxford or Cambridge being FSM pupils between 2005 and 2007. At the 25 most selective universities, FSM pupils made up just 2% of the student intake compared with 72% of other state school pupils.
The report, entitled "Responding to the new landscape for university access", said: "This newly available data provides an insight into the extent of the widening education gap between the latest cohorts of the poorest and most privileged students both at school and university.
"It also reveals that similarly highly academic selective universities can have very different numbers of Free School Meal children on their degree courses - due in part to whether they are located or not in major cities. Careful consideration will be needed if the FSM indicator is to be used as a way of identifying students for support through university access schemes."
The Sutton Trust said the Government's £150 million-a-year National Scholarship programme should be more widely targeted beyond financial support for students. The Trust also called for the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) to remain independent after the higher education scheme Aimhigher was scrapped.
It also urged the Government not to allow OFFA to be taken over by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "Sutton Trust's report is yet more evidence confirming the widening attainment gap in our education system between those from poor and wealthiest backgrounds and between the independent and state sectors. It is a key priority of the coalition Government to narrow and ultimately close that gap, which is why we are taking such radical measures to raise standards in the state education system."