The Education Secretary gave his backing to the use of data on a student’s background to determine university places.

Figures published this week showed offer rates are higher this year for pupils from areas with the lowest proportion of progression to higher education.

Offer rates in these areas for UK 18-year-olds are at 74.5%, compared with 73% in areas with the highest proportion of young people moving on to higher education, according to data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas).

Students sat around a library table
Hundreds of thousands of pupils will receive A-level results on Thursday (MBI/Alamy/PA)

Ucas has also taken into account data on free school meals – an indicator of disadvantage – in offers for the first time this year.

James Cleverly also appeared to dismiss suggestions in some quarters of “social engineering” in favour of students from disadvantaged areas.

In an interview with the Telegraph, he said: “If universities are recognising that for some students in some circumstances, getting the top grade or whatever grade they’re making offers against, are harder than students from other schools and other backgrounds then I’m not uncomfortable with that.”

If a student’s better performance is against a more difficult background, it is not wrong “that that is recognised”, Mr Cleverly was also quoted as saying.

Hundreds of thousands of pupils will receive A-level results on Thursday, with Mr Cleverly telling the paper admissions are the “responsibility of universities” and the Government “can’t and we don’t dictate to universities how they do admissions”.