State school pupils “more likely to get a good degree than private school peers,” claims study

By Natasha Livingstone

Students from comprehensive schools have a “significant advantage” at university compared with those from private and grammar schools, according to a new study.

Nationally, seven percent of secondary pupils attend independent schools. At Durham University, the 2015/16 admissions intake was composed of 60.5% state school students compared to 39.5% from fee-paying schools.

The research, led by Stephen Jones at the University of Manchester, found that state school leavers were more likely to achieve a first or a 2:1 than their private school counterparts.

Their analysis was based on nearly 9,000 graduates, revealing that comprehensive students had this advantage in seven out of 11 entry qualification combinations.

Considering graduates between 2010-2012, 95% of state-school students who achieved four A grades at A Level got a good degree, compared with 91.1% of private school leavers with the same A level results.   

The researchers concluded: “Students from state schools are more likely to become high achievers than those from independent schools who enter university with the same grades.

“We see this as evidence that the full academic potential of high-ability state school children is not always realised until those children reach university.”

Other studies have found similar results. In 2015, a study conducted by the University of Cambridge, found that privately educated students at Russell Group Universities were a third less likely to achieve a first or 2:1 than state school leavers with similar entry grades.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England also found that pupils from comprehensive schools were more likely to graduate with top classifications than private school students with similar backgrounds.

Photograph: Ben Sutherland via Flickr

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