Almost six-in-10 teachers are failing to push their most academically-gifted teenagers towards Oxford or Cambridge, it was revealed. The study suggests that opposition towards the ancient universities – regularly ranked among the world’s top five institutions – is rising among the teaching profession. When the research was last carried out five years ago, only 50 per cent of teachers declined to recommend Oxbridge, it emerged. The disclosure will be seen as a blow to the Government which has repeatedly criticised Britain’s top research universities for failing to admit more students from poor backgrounds and state schools. Last year, Nick Clegg warned that top institutions had a duty to ensure “British society is better reflected” in their admissions to justify state funding. They are now required to set tough new targets to widen access. But organisations such as the Russell Group, which represents 24 leading universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, insist that admissions targets are hard to meet because large numbers of well-qualified students from state schools fail to apply. The latest study by the Sutton Trust, a charity promoting social mobility, appears to reinforce the view, saying that state school teachers believe Oxbridge is the preserve of privately-educated students. Sir Peter Lampl, the charity’s chairman, said: “It is deeply concerning that the majority of state school teachers are not encouraging their brightest children to apply to Oxford and Cambridge. “The sad consequence of these findings is that Oxford and Cambridge are missing out on talented students in state schools – who are already under-represented at these institutions based on their academic achievements. “We need to do much more to dispel the myths in schools about Oxbridge and other leading universities.” The Sutton Trust surveyed 730 secondary state school teachers as part of the research. It found that just 44 per cent would “advise academically-gifted pupils to apply to Oxbridge”. This was down on 50 per cent of teachers who would push students towards the universities five years ago, when the study was previously carried out. Figures show that teachers also hugely underestimate the proportion of state school students at Oxbridge – suggesting they believe the two universities are too elitist. Currently, almost six-in-10 students with places are state-educated. But almost two-thirds of teachers thought the true proportion was less than 30 per cent. Only one-in-14 teachers believed the majority of students at the two universities came from state schools.