Oxford's universities have defended themselves against charges of elitism after a study showed they admit relatively few applicants from state schools.

Only 55 per cent of students at Oxford are from the state sector, making it jointly with Cambridge the most elitist university in Britain.

Oxford Brookes University was 16th on the list, with three quarters of its students coming from state schools.

The study, by the Higher Education Funding Council, also revealed that only nine per cent of Oxford students come from the lowest three social classes ,while the figure for Oxford Brookes was 20 per cent.

Prof Graham Upton, vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes, said the university's location helped explain its low proportion of state-educated students.

He said: "Although Oxford Brookes still has a low representation from disadvantaged groups in comparison to the UK average, the location-adjusted benchmarks show that this difference is not as large or as significant as previous years have suggested."

A spokesman for Oxford University said : "Oxford University has thirty members of staff devoted to widening participation and on average at least one event takes place every single working day of the year. Many of these are targeted at students from lower-income backgrounds."