Private school students 'get better degrees with poorer grades'

Good exam results not necessarily enough to get into leading universities, new research shows

Eton College students
(Image credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Students who receive a private education are significantly more likely to graduate from a leading university than their state school peers, regardless of their exam results, new research shows.

Researchers focused on 7,700 people born in the 1970s, looking at their exam results aged 11, 16 and 18, their social background and their parents' educational achievements.

They found that students who attended a private school were two and half times more likely to receive a place at a Russell Group university than state school pupils with the same exam results.

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Almost 31 per cent of private school pupils received a degree from an elite university, compared to just 13 per cent from grammar schools and five percent from comprehensives, according to the study by the University of Manchester and Institute of Education.

The report concluded that receiving a private school education was "powerfully predictive of gaining a university degree and especially a degree from an elite institution", according to the Daily Telegraph.

"Advantaged social origins and private schooling raises the chances of getting a degree, and especially an elite degree, above and beyond test scores and examination attainment," said lead researcher Professor Alice Sullivan from London University's Institute of Education.

Having a parent with a university degree also boosted the child's chances of attending a prestigious university. The parents' "level of motivation and ambition regarding education, as well as differences in political outlook linked to attitudes towards 'getting on' in life" also had an impact, said researchers.

Even though the research focused on students born in the 1970s, "the findings are still relevant today", Sullivan argues in The Conversation. "Given the domination of Britain's ruling class by graduates of private schools and elite universities, these non-meritocratic processes have important repercussions," she said.

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