London, Aug.23 : Some of Britain's leading universities are reported to be favouring less-qualified students from poorer backgrounds. An investigation by The Daily Telegraph reveals five out of 20 elite institutions in the UK make lower grade offers to sixth-formers from poor-performing schools and deprived homes.
The London School of Economics, Bristol, Nottingham, Newcastle, and Edinburgh all allow staff to choose students with worse grades.
Overall, almost two-thirds of the elite Russell Group - which represents research-intensive universities - attach weighting to candidates' schools, home postcodes and whether family members also attended university as a tiebreaker during the application process.
The findings are likely to fuel allegations of "social engineering" at the most sought-after universities.
It comes just days after Oxford was criticised for using postcodes to identify students from less well-off areas when interviewing candidates.
Under Government rules, all higher education institutions have a duty to encourage more students from non-traditional backgrounds to apply.
The Telegraph analysed admissions policies at all 20 universities.
Documents reveal that students from poor homes can receive vastly differing advantages depending on where they apply.
Twelve universities instructed tutors to use some form of routinely gathered data about students' socio-economic or educational background as a standard part of the admissions procedure.
Five universities also allow staff to use flexible grade offers to take applicants' backgrounds into consideration.
All of the universities who make use of personal information defended their decision, claiming that it allows them to operate a fair policy by identifying potential and not just prior achievement.