Claire Lucas, the daughter of a lorry driver and a housewife, applied to Oxford University to study engineering. She realized how successful she was only after she got her place there. After Lucas has completed her degree at Worcester College, she entered St Cross College. She says: "The only definition of posh where we grew up was being clever. I didn't even contemplate the impact that [social class] would have when I got here".
Although there are many students who live in amazing houses and in spite of Lucas’s inability to afford to go on the varsity ski trip, she feels comfortable and has settled in well. She says: "Luckily, I was encouraged to develop skill and confidence by very patient tutors." Lucas is proud of studying at her school: "The school was nowhere near a grammar or private school, so children from middle-class professional families came in – I think that their success helped to raise aspirations for the school."
It is common knowledge that there are few students from working-class backgrounds studying at top universities. A new analysis of statistics reveals the true picture of the issue. In a survey of over 150 institutions, eight of the 10 universities with huge amount of working-class students belong to the prestigious Russell Group of research-intensive universities. Oxford receives only 11.5% of its intake from working-class families and is bottom in this table. Cambridge is the next with 12.6% income from poor families while Bristol takes the third place with 14.2%.
Danny Dorling, professor of geography at Sheffield University, who has investigated social inequality, noted in his custom essay: "It's hard to believe just how many working-class children live within the shadow of our top universities. Oxford doesn't have a university as far as the working-class children of that town are concerned. The situation has been improving since the 1930s, but there is a real threat that things will go backwards under the new coalition."
Last week the report by the Office of Fair Access (Offa), the government's watchdog, revealed that the efforts the most prestigious universities to attract poor teenagers by offering generous bursaries were fruitless.