Sutton Trust report on access to leading universities

13 November 2013

Commenting on the latest research from the Sutton Trust on access to leading universities, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

“As this report shows the main reason pupils from disadvantaged background are less likely to go to leading universities is because they are not achieving the right grades. But students not only need good grades, they need them in the right subjects. This is especially important because entry into some courses, like Medicine or English, is very competitive. It is also the case that some very bright students are not encouraged to apply for leading universities. We cannot offer places to those who do not apply or who have not done the right subjects to study their chosen course.

“Access is an issue for leading universities across the globe – there is no silver bullet to this entrenched problem. School attainment, advice and aspirations must all be dramatically improved if we are to tackle the real barriers to fair access.

“All Russell Group universities want to give places to students with the qualifications, potential and determination to succeed, irrespective of their background. We work hard to tackle the access gap. That’s why we are pumping millions more into outreach programmes, why we published Informed Choices to give better guidance to students choosing their A levels and it’s why many of our universities sponsor academies and work with their local schools.”

Notes to Editors

  1. Read the report by the Sutton Trust here.
    Sir Peter Lampl says today: “Access to elite universities is a real issue across the globe, and we hope that by discussing it at the summit, we can learn from each other on what can work to improve access for bright low and middle income students. This new research confirms that there many able children either not applying or not being admitted to the best universities, and this is true internationally."
    Our universities work closely with the Sutton Trust – many are cited in this report as good case studies.
  2. The Russell Group is running the Future Scholars scheme (formally known as Dux) with funding from the Department for Education. This programme encourages the brightest pupils from state schools to apply to Russell Group universities.
  3. Russell Group universities are spending more than £200 million on outreach and financial support, and working on outreach programmes with the Sutton Trust and others.
  4. Pupils from top independent schools make twice as many applications to the most selective universities as their equally well-qualified peers from the best comprehensives.

Policy area

Related case studies