UNIVERSITY PERFORMANCE tables published today highlight a glaring gap between Britain's elite universities and the rest in attracting students from poorer homes.
They show that not a single university from the so-called Russell Group of the country's top 19 research establishments achieves the UK average for higher education of recruiting 25 per cent of students from working-class homes.
Some have made "significant improvements" in recruiting youngsters from state schools - for instance, the London School of Economics has seen its intake rise from 58 per cent to 66 per cent.
However, the overall message from today's tables, published by the Higher Education Funding Council is that despite the Government pumping in more than pounds 36m to target students from the poorest neighbourhoods, little is happening on the ground to achieve the Government's aim of allowing students from the poorest homes access to the top universities.
The findings will increase the pressure on ministers to come up with a substantial financial package in their higher education blueprint to encourage more working-class participation - and abandon plans to allow universities to charge top-up fees.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said last night: "As students are still being asked to pay upfront fees to attend university, it's not surprising that people from poor backgrounds are still being put off. Introducing top-up fees would only make the situation worse."
Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education, has dropped broad hints that he favours the introduction of a graduate tax rather than upfront fees to give higher education a financial boost. …