The study, led by the University of York, found that parents' socioeconomic status and children's inherited DNA differences are powerful predictors of educational achievement.
However, the research suggests that having the genes for school success is not as beneficial as having parents who are highly educated and wealthy. Only 47% of children in the study sample with a high genetic propensity for education but a poorer background made it to university, compared with 62% with a low genetic propensity but parents that are more affluent.
The researchers found that children with a high genetic propensity for education who were also from wealthy and well-educated family backgrounds had the greatest advantage with 77% going to University. Meanwhile, only 21% of children from families with low socioeconomic status and low genetic propensity carried on into higher education.
Lead author of the study, Professor Sophie von Stumm from the Department of Education at the University of York said: "Genetics and socioeconomic status capture the effects of both nature and nurture, and their influence is particularly dramatic for children at the extreme ends of distribution.