White pupils are the ethnic group least likely to attend a top university for the first time, following a national drive to make intakes more diverse.
Department for Education statistics show 10.5 per cent of white youngsters are at an elite university, the smallest proportion of any ethnic group.
Historically, black pupils were the least likely, but in the latest data they overtook their white counterparts with 10.7 per cent now attending.
The data for 2020-21 – the latest available – may challenge the claim by campaigners that elite universities are racist.
In recent years, admissions tutors have been allowed to take an applicant’s background into account when considering offering them a place.
It has led to many more disadvantaged and ethnic minority students being accepted – sometimes with lower grade offers – to make up for barriers during schooling.
Universities have to prove every year to the Office for Students watchdog that they are spending lots of money and effort on recruitment of ‘diverse’ groups.
The statistics, released yesterday, also show a record proportion of the most disadvantaged students – those on free school meals – went to university of any kind. A total of 28.1 per cent of these deprived pupils went on to study for a degree – up from 26.6 per cent the previous year.