The Telegraph, 21/11/14, a study of 7,700 people finds being bright is not necessarily enough to get a degree from a top university
Private school pupils are significantly more likely to graduate from an elite university than state school pupils, even if their academic ability is inferior, researchers have found.
A study of more than 7,700 people revealed the immense advantage a private education confers on children, regardless of their exam results.
It found that those who attended private secondary schools in the 1980s were about two and a half times more likely to gain a degree from a highly selective Russell Group university than comprehensive or grammar school pupils with the same A-level results.
They were also almost one and a half times more likely to graduate from a mainstream university than their state school peers.
It would also follow that private school pupils with worse A-level results were more likely to obtain a degree from a top university than their higher achieving state school contemporaries, Professor Alice Sullivan, the study’s lead author, said.
Researchers at the Institute of Education and the University of Manchester analysed the education histories of thousands of people in England and Wales whose lives are being followed by the 1970 British Cohort Study.
When A-level results were not taken into account, private school pupils were overall six times more likely to obtain a degree from an elite university as comprehensive school pupils were.
They were also more than twice as likely to do so as grammar school pupils were.
Some 31% of private school pupils in the 1970 birth cohort obtained a degree from an elite university – namely a Russell Group institution or the University of Bath or St Andrews - compared to 13% from grammar schools and five per cent from comprehensives.
However, the researchers concluded that the apparent success of grammar schools could be attributed to pupils’ social backgrounds and other factors such as their attainment at age 11.
“Private schooling is powerfully linked to degree chances,” the report said.
“Attending a private school is powerfully predictive of gaining a university degree, and especially a degree from an elite institution.”
Among the reasons for the stark discrepancy between the university achievements of private and state pupils were likely to be the differences between parents who send their child to a private school and those who do not, the report said.
These included parents’ “level of motivation and ambition regarding education, as well as differences in political outlook linked to attitudes towards ‘getting on’ in life.”
The level of aspiration, both of the parents and the schools, and links between elite universities such as Oxford and Cambridge and certain top private schools could also help explain the findings, the authors suggested.
Having a parent with a degree significantly increased the chances of graduating from an elite university, the study found.
A person born in 1970 who had at least one graduate parent was more than twice as likely to obtain a degree from a Russell Group university as a pupil with the same A-level results but whose parents had no qualifications.
Fifty-two per cent of privately-educated pupils had at least one graduate parent, compared to 31% from grammar schools and 14% from comprehensives.
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