The study, commissioned by the Department of Education and conducted by The University of Warwick and The Institute for Fiscal Studies, found students from non-selective state schools possess greater academic potential and go on to achieve higher results at university than their privately educated peers.
Findings from the report reveal that when comparing students with similar attainment levels from non-selective state schools and independent schools, students from non-selective state schools were more likely to graduate with a better degree classification and less likely to drop out. One of the key findings from the paper showed that an independently educated student was 10 per cent less likely to get a first or a 2:1 degree than their comprehensive school educated peer. This was based on a comparison of the A-Level and GCSE results of students from differing academic backgrounds who were studying similar subjects at university.
The report concludes with the cautious suggestion that the findings of the study “may, in turn, suggest that university entry requirements could be lowered for pupils from non-selective or low-value-added state schools in order to equalise the potential of all students being admitted to university.”
Claire Crawford, the author of the report, has suggested that the findings could be useful to universities when taking account of the offers they give out to prospective students, particularly when considering widening participation.
Students from lower achieving state schools are less likely to apply for and attend more prestigious universities, however following these results favouring the higher academic attainment of comprehensive school students, high-ranking universities may begin to consider encouraging students from said academic backgrounds.
Some universities from across the UK already have schemes in place that take into account non-academic criteria.
The University of Leeds’ ‘Access to Leeds’ scheme lets students provide wider contextual information and is aimed specifically at students who may be unable to demonstrate their strengths based solely on their A-level grades.
A University spokesperson told Nouse: “The University’s widening participation strategy is focused on increasing the number of students from the lowest socio-economic groups, rather than on students from a particular type of school. We are very successful in this – we attract a higher proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds than other Russell Group universities.
“We take into account individual circumstances in making offers to applicants, but we do not systematically discriminate in favour of applicants from state schools.”