State-school pupils are taking over at the UK's top universities, according to new figures.
The Sutton Trust figures indicate that elite universities have boosted their state-school intakes in the two years since chancellor Gordon Brown accused Oxford University of elitism following the failure of state-school pupil Laura Spence to gain a place at Magdalen College.
The figures, which update the Trust's Entry to Leading Universities report of May 2000, indicate that the proportion of state-school pupils at the top-ranked universities increased by 4 percentage points between 1999 and 2001.
Trust chairman and founder Peter Lampl said that Mr Brown's interest in Ms Spence's case gave top universities a greater sense of urgency to improve access for state-school pupils.
Writing in today's THES , Mr Lampl said: "The figures are encouraging, suggesting that the tide has begun to turn in favour of state-school applicants."
The trust, an independent foundation dedicated to widening access to higher education, surveyed six of the original 13 universities it looked at in its 2000 report. It found that state-school admissions at Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford and St Andrews universities and London School of Economics rose from 59 to 63 per cent of UK admissions between 1999 and 2001.
Trust statisticians estimate that across the 13 leading universities, state-school admissions may have risen from 63 per cent to 67 per cent between 1999 and 2001.
The 2000 report, which was based on 1999 admissions data from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, showed that state-school intakes climbed by 1 percentage point between 1997 (62 per cent) and 1999 (63 per cent).
But the gap between the Hefce benchmark, based on A-level performance, for state-school entry to these 13 institutions - 73 per cent in 1997 and 74 per cent in 1999 - and actual state-school admissions stayed at 11 per cent.
The updated Sutton Trust figures show that this gap had narrowed to 7 percentage points, from 67 per cent to 74 per cent.
Figures for individual institutions were not released although The THES has discovered that Oxford University's admissions for 2001 comprised 53.2 per cent state school (up from 51.9 per cent in 2000) compared with 46.8 per cent independent (down from 48.1 per cent). Cambridge's state-school admissions stood at 53 per cent in 2001 compared with 52 per cent in 2000. Figures from the LSE indicate that one-third of entrants in 2001 were from independent schools and two-thirds from elsewhere, mainly state schools and overseas.
Baroness Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, said: "Our recent report, Social Class and Participation , shows just how hard universities are working to reach out to talented young people from non-traditional backgrounds."