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The University of Oxford has again topped a table of UK universities with the lowest share of students pursuing a first degree who come from state schools.
But a data analysis by Times Higher Education can reveal that its near neighbour Oxford Brookes University actually performs worse for young state school entrants once factors such as subject and school exam results are accounted for.
The latest data, released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency on 1 February, show that 57.7 per cent of young first-degree entrants to Oxford University in 2016-17 were from state schools, up slightly from the 55.7 per cent share in 2015-16.
Other universities with relatively low proportions of new entrants from state schools were the University of Cambridge (62.6 per cent), Durham University (62.9 per cent) and Imperial College London (63.5 per cent).
However, once the data are analysed to see how far universities are from their benchmark figure – an expected state school share that takes account of students’ qualifications and the subject studied – Oxford no longer tops the list.
Instead, the THE analysis suggests, Oxford Brookes – where 73.7 per cent of new students came from state schools, against a benchmark of 91.5 per cent – is the furthest behind where it should be.
Responding to the figures, Alice Wilby, UK recruitment and partnerships director at Oxford Brookes, said that state school recruitment was “a complex area with many variables affecting institutions differently”.
The university is, she said, “committed to widening access and recognises the need to continue identifying and implementing new approaches to help ensure that we are attracting a diverse student body from all backgrounds”.
Ms Wilby pointed to work that Oxford Brookes had done in sponsoring a local state school, offering degrees through further education colleges and supporting mature students, giving it a higher proportion of older students than the sector average.
The Hesa data can be further analysed to look at benchmarks adjusted for the areas from which students come. Allowing for this does not radically change the list for those performing worst on state school entrants, but it does help to identify which universities are doing well against benchmarks.
For instance, Queen Mary University of London is the institution that has the highest state school intake compared with this location-adjusted benchmark, followed by the universities of Portsmouth and Surrey.
Overall across the UK, the proportion of young first-degree entrants from state schools increased by 0.1 percentage point in 2016-17 to 90 per cent.
There was also a very slight rise in the proportion of such students from the most disadvantaged areas going into higher education, from 11.3 per cent in 2015-16 to 11.4 per cent in 2016-17.