The children of doctors, solicitors and other 'higher professional' groupings continue to dominate entry to third level courses in medicine, law and similar professions, according to new figures by the Higher Education Authority.

Preliminary data on the socio-economic backgrounds of last year's higher education entrants reveals that although 'higher professionals' make up just 5% of the overall population, their children take 33% of medicine places each year.

Children of the small social grouping, or so called 'higher professionals', last year made up a third of first year medicine students, 27% of veterinary students, 23% of law students and 19% of pharmacy students.

By contrast the children of non-manual, semi-skilled or unskilled workers continue to be significantly underrepresented on these courses when compared to their numbers in the overall population.

HEA Chief Executive Tom Boland says the figures pose a challenge not just to the universities but also to the professions in question to explore ways of ensuring greater diversity among their members.