STUDENTS in Sunderland are less likely to attend the country’s top universities.
Latest figures reveal a rich and poor divide when it comes to accessing the Russell Group universities, which are the top 20 prestigious institutions including Oxford and Cambridge.
The statistics, released by the Department of Education, show a trend towards youngsters in areas of deprivation being far less likely to secure a place at one of these universities than those who are from more affluent areas.
For the academic year 2009/10 just six per cent of Wearside A level students went on to either Oxbridge or a Russell Group university, compared to the national average of nine per cent.
However, some of the more affluent areas, especially in the South, saw far higher percentages of students taking up places at the prestigious institutions, with the highest being 28 per cent from Reading.
The statistics showed eight per cent of students from County Durham headed for the top universities and seven per cent from South Tyneside.
North Tyneside had the highest number of young people from the region going to a Russell Group university (14 per cent) and Middlesbrough the lowest (three per cent).
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Shadow Education Minister, said: “These figures show there is still a lot of work to do to reduce the divide between rich and poor in our education system, but come at a time when the Tory-led Government risks making things significantly worse by abolishing the Education Maintenance Allowance, trebling tuition fees, and getting rid of advice services.
“The Russell Group isn’t the be all and end all, and lots of Wearside students achieve great things at other great universities like the University of Sunderland, but teachers and schools do also need to ensure that they are breaking down barriers and preconceptions, and allowing students to aim high.”
Durham Johnston School in Durham City is one of the region’s schools which is breaking down barriers to top universities, figures showed it had one of the best records of any non selective school in England, sending five per cent of students to Oxbridge and a further 25 per cent to other Russell Universities.
A recent report by Alan Milburn, a Government adviser on social mobility, revealed students at less prestigious universities can miss out on top jobs.
He also criticised Britain’s top companies for advertising at only two North East universities, Durham and Newcastle, which are both in the Russell Group.