WORKING-CLASS boys are shunning university summer schools designed to widen access to top-rated institutions.
Twice as many girls as boys from families with no history of going to university are applying to take part in the taster courses.
Figures for this year's courses at Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, Nottingham and St Andrews universities have prompted further concerns over the academic performance and ambition of working-class boys.
This year nearly 1,500 girls and fewer than 700 boys applied to take part in the scheme, run by the Sutton Trust, an education charity. All the applicants are at schools in deprived parts of the country or areas with a poor record of sending students on to higher education.
The trust pays for more than 650 pupils to spend a week at the courses in July. They attend lectures, meet tutors and take part in social activities, with current students acting as mentors.
Sir Peter Lampl, the chairman of the Sutton Trust, said he was concerned at the pattern of smaller numbers of applications from boys over the past four years. It had been hoped that allowing online applications this year and targeting schools more closely would help to redress the balance.
Sir Peter blamed the lack of male role models in education, including fathers and primary school teachers. "There are negative connotations towards education among the famous sports and music stars that boys look up to," he said.
Universities have taken steps towards tackling the problem of attracting pupils from less privileged backgrounds. Ucas, the admissions service, has added a question to application forms that asks students about their family's history of higher education. This information will be used to judge how successful universities are at widening participation.
Ucas is also considering plans to use schools' "value added" exam results when allocating places, which would give pupils from lower-ranked schools an improved chance of winning a place.
Sir Peter Lampl, page 26