Nine UK higher education institutions accepted at least 10 per cent of students with no recorded qualifications, according to the latest analysis of applications.
Figures released on the main qualifications of applicants accepted in 1996-97 reveal that South Bank University, the University of East London and the University of Abertay, Dundee, were among those that took on a significant proportion of students without A levels, Scottish Highers or even access or foundation course credits.
A spokesman from the University of East London said many of its students were older and had left school at 15 or 16 without qualifications. It subjected them to a rigorous interview and proof of work before accepting them to degree courses.
A survey by the university last year found people who joined without formal qualifications left with more firsts and upper seconds than those who possessed them.
This week's tables, compiled by the Higher Education Management Statistics group, show that higher qualifications on entering university do not always mean a better chance of securing a job afterwards.
Employment prospects appear best for graduates of the University of Surrey, which reported that fewer than 1 per cent of students who left in 1997 were unemployed. Job prospects were also good for graduates from St Andrews, Bristol, Birkbeck, Hull, Nottingham Trent and Oxford Brookes. Abertay also reported one of the top ten employment records in the country, beating Oxford and Cambridge. But students from Oxbridge and other older universities are much more likely to go on to further study.
The HEMS figures also show students at older universities are more likely to have come from professional/managerial classes than those at post-1992 institutions.
While the highest social classes contribute 80 per cent of students at Oxford and Cambridge and more than 70 per cent at Bristol, they are only 40 per cent of the student body at new universities such as Middlesex, Wolverhampton and North London.
Other statistics show striking differences between expenditure per full-time student by departments at different universities and reveal higher spending per student by old universities. While over Pounds 6,200 is spent per student at Cambridge, at Bristol it is more than Pounds 5,700 and at the London Business School over Pounds 11,000. Middlesex University spends Pounds 1,637 and London Guildhall Pounds 1,649.
Bill Lovett, head of the planning and resources unit at London Guildhall University, said differences in expenditure figures were the result of different acceptance methods, the high costs of buildings in central London and varying costs of subjects.
Average expenditure per full-time equivalent student throughout the UK is Pounds 3,256.