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Gap between state and independent school pupils at university is widening

15 July 2015 | last updated: 10 December 2015

Less than a quarter (23%) of pupils at state schools and colleges who studied A-levels had progressed to one of the most selective universities by age 19 in 2012/13, compared to almost two-thirds (63%) from independent schools, according to new government figures released today.

The figures* also show that the gap between state and independent progression rates to the most selective institutions has widened in recent years. In 2007/08 the gap was 38 percentage points, although it dropped to 37 in 2008/09, it was up to 40 by 2012/13.

Overall, two-thirds (66%) of those who studied A-levels in state schools and colleges progressed to university by age 19 in 2012/13, compared to 85% in the independent sector. The gap between these progression rates has risen from 13 percentage points in 2008/09 to 19 for the 2012/13 cohort.

UCU said the figures demonstrated that much still needed to be done to encourage students in state schools to apply to university and to consider the most selective institutions. The union said the government's decision to axe student grants and allow university fees to increase risked sending exactly the wrong message to some students that university was not for them.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'These figures demonstrate that for all the good work being undertaken by schools and universities, there is much more that needs to be done. No pupil should think that some universities or higher education is not for them.

'The government's decision to axe student grants and allow fees to rise will do nothing to bolster the efforts of staff to try and encourage some groups of students to apply to university. If we want to diversify the make-up of our campuses we need policies that actively support students and set universities more challenging targets on widening participation.'

* Table 3b