The proportion of poorer students at some of the UK’s leading universities, including one of Scotland’s ancient institutions, has fallen in the past decade despite attempts to boost numbers.
Analysis of official data shows the overall proportion of disadvantaged students starting at a Russell Group university - considered the best in the country - has stalled in the past 10 years.
The findings come after Prime Minister David Cameron warned educational institutions must do more to tackle social inequality.
The Russell Group - encompassing 24 universities including the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow - said progress is being made to ensure able students from all backgrounds have access to its universities, but said it could not solve the problem alone.
Latest figures show the percentage of entrants from state school at the University of Glasgow last year was 84.5 per cent - down 2.1 per cent from 2004-2005.
The university’s percentage of entrants from lower social groups was 21.4 per cent, a fall of 1.3 percentage points.
However, the University of Edinburgh bucked the trend with 68.5 per cent of last year’s entrants from state schools - up 1.8 per cent from 2004-2005. Similarly, the percentage of new students from lower social groups was 18.7 per cent - a rise of 1.6 per cent.
Around one in six (17.2 per cent) students from lower social groups started a course at a Russell Group institution last year, compared with nearly one in three (32.1 per cent) of their wealthier peers.
Lee Elliot Major, chief executive of social mobility charity the Sutton Trust, said: “Today’s figures tell us that we need renewed and concerted efforts from Government, schools and universities alike to improve participation rates for the poorest students.”
A spokesman for the Glasgow University said: “The University of Glasgow runs extensive and extremely successful outreach programmes to ensure that we recruit the most able and ambitious students regardless of socio-economic background.
“This is seen in the rise in the number of Scottish based students from the 40 per cent most disadvantaged areas to more than 25 per cent of our undergraduate intake - easily the highest of any of Scotland’s ancient universities.
“We work closely with the Scottish Government as part of our Outcome Agreement to ensure that widening participation is core to our recruitment strategy.”