New figures show that the gap between rich and poor students attending university is at its widest level in over a decade.
Data published by the Department for Education showed that just 26.3% of pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) went on to university last year, compared to 44.9% of students who were not.
The 18.6% gap is the widest margin since 2007.
The DfE analysis also revealed that inner-London had the country’s highest university attendance figures for disadvantaged students, with 48% of FSM-eligible pupils graduating to higher education.
According to the Widening Participation in Higher Education report, the attendance gap varies greatly from region to region.
“The gap is lowest for Inner London at nine percentage points, followed by Outer London at 15 percentage points and the West Midlands at 18 percentage points,” the report said.
“The South East has the largest gap in progression rates at 26 percentage points.”