STUDENTS living just a few miles apart have differing life chances when it comes to getting into the UK's top universities, new figures show.

In Bournemouth, 17 per cent of school and college leavers went to one of the 24 elite Russell Group universities, considered to be among the UK’s best.

More than one in four Bournemouth students go on to study at one of the UK’s top third of universities – above the national average.

This includes just two per cent who studied at world-class Oxford or Cambridge, while overall, 502 students in Bournemouth (65 per cent) did a degree or equivalent course within two years.

But students hailing from the Dorset county area fared differently.

In Dorset, 19 per cent of students went to one of the top third most competitive universities, ranked by the average exam results of entrants.

This included 13 per cent who got into one Russell Group universities.

And just one per cent of all Dorset-based students secured a coveted place at Oxford or Cambridge.

The figures, culled from the government's Destinations of KS4 and 16 to 18 (KS5) students: 2018, only include those from state-funded schools and colleges who did A-level or equivalent qualifications, and who continuously studied at university for at least six months.

Social mobility charity the Sutton Trust has warned that someone's chances of going to a top university, which it says is the surest route to a good job, differs significantly depending on where they grow up.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: “Getting a degree from a leading university is one of the surest routes to a good job.

“Yet these figures tell us that where you grow up has a significant impact on your chances of going.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said that while the number of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who go to university has increased, it is still a lot fewer than those from wealthier groups.

He added: “The next government – whoever it is – must ensure that schools and colleges have the funding and supply of teachers they need to support these students.”

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “As a government, we have seen a record rate of disadvantaged 18 year olds going to university, and we have made it a priority to ensure that we continue to improve access and participation across the country.”