The research was commissioned by The Sutton Trust and undertaken at the University of Manchester who compared UCAS Personal Statements of 309 applicants, all with identical grades.
Read the Times Higher Education article here
The gist of the article is that privately educated applicants apparently had statements that were well crafted and articulated, and they had better quality work experience that their "well placed" contacts had presumably facilitated for them. Whereas state educated applicants had less well crafted statements, were less likely to have had help compiling them, had only experienced Saturday jobs, and had worse grammar and spelling than the "privileged" kids.
I'm not convinced - especially by the grammar element! These kids all had the same grades after all...
But is this really an issue of privilege? The same information and advice is available to all - private and state school students, parents, teachers and careers advisors.
Why shouldn't - more importantly, why wouldn't - parents want to give their kids all the support they can? This support should be forthcoming from parents regardless of wealth or education.
Private education is no longer the privilege of the wealthy. I know lots of ordinary parents who are not big earners but who send their kids to private schools because they want their kids to have the best possible start in life and/or they feel that the state system is inadequate. They want their kids to attend schools that maintain high standards both in teaching and in behaviour. Schools where teaching staff are passionate about their subjects, are able to engage the children in learning, and can maintain discipline in the classroom. Who wouldn't want that for their kids?
Conversely I know well-off people who've had to take their kids out of private school because of changes to their circumstances and some who are happy to use the state system where good state schools exists, eg Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.
On the subject of work experience, it's not solely down to "who you know". Yes, there's a bit of that but it's often just about making the effort. I secured 2 lots of work experience for an undergraduate earlier this year, just by tweeting. How easy is that? No favours. No friends in high places. Just a little effort.
Likewise I got fantastic work experience in a law firm some years ago for a GCSE student, just by picking up the phone and going through the solicitors on Yellow Pages. Again, no favours, just a little effort. This didn't involve privilege in any way, shape or form. Anyone can access the yellow pages and start ringing around.
Yes, there will always be disparity and an element of privilege and I'm glad of it. The world would be rather dull if we were all the same. But this needn't impact on UCAS personal statements.
There is a wealth of information available about writing UCAS statements. State educated kids and their parents and teachers all have access to the same information as the privately educated. It's all on the UCAS website, on the internet generally, on individual university websites, in their prospectuses and in the libraries. And I can tell you from personal experience, that kids and parents are totally bombarded with information from UCAS long before the application process starts. There is absolutely no excuse for ignorance or for lack of preparation.
There's a typical example on our UCAS Personal Statements page of the sort of information that's freely available to all university applicants. It's a short video that illustrates how to approach the UCAS statement and how to brainstorm your skills, achievements, motivations, etc.
Click this link to view the video: http://www.compellingcvs.co.uk/ucas-personal-statements.html
I disagree that good quality UCAS personal statements are the domain of the privileged few. It's about effort and motivation and wanting your child to succeed (or, in the case of teachers, wanting your students to succeed).
On a final note, CompellingCVs provides support with UCAS Personal Statements for students from all walks of life and we'd be happy to help you or your child with their UCAS statement.