Why didn't your child apply to Oxford or Cambridge?

(351 Posts)
ZeroSomeGameThingy Tue 27-May-14 09:10:21

www.theguardian.com/education/2014/may/27/oxbridge-state-school-numbers-falling

Given that most people who apply will not get in - there's no shame in an unsuccessful application. So what are the real reasons for this apparent reluctance?

TalkinPeace Tue 27-May-14 12:11:05

Oxbridge would also do themselves a lot of favours if they moved to a 'cohort place' model as adopted by several of the top (not all Ivy League) colleges

ie they only take applicants who came in the top ten at their school

which gets rid of the over tutored middling private school kids and just picks out the real high fliers, from whichever area or type of school.

lottiegarbanzo Tue 27-May-14 12:11:53

Well, perhaps reading the question is an important pre-requisite.... I was talking about my and my peers' experience 20 years ago.

So 'lots of extra work' because there were entrance exams to prepare for, special classes for that and going down that route was a massive commitment. Teachers would not give the time to it if you were not very committed and a reasonable prospect. They actively put people off unless they were very serious about it. No-one would have been encouraged to do the extra work for no reason, because no teacher would have wanted such unproductive extra work.

State school, got people in every year, including in the same subject to the same college every year (oh, teacher just happened to know someone there or have been? Yes. This is partly why, in that subject particularly, they'd only coach and enter good prospects - quality control, so the school's entrants were always taken seriously).

If you are so competitive and with a traditional / conventional idea that Oxbridge is best per se, as well as being capable, then of course you would apply. That's about your family, not your school though, isn't it?

I thought you were asking why others take a different view and approach. Lots of reasons have been given. Many are based in values. You seem to place value on competitiveness for its own sake that many others do not.

TheWordFactory Tue 27-May-14 12:12:12

talkin you may be very satisfied. Expectations/aspirations are subjective things of course. One person's satisfactory, is another's very poor indeed.

But in your earlier post, you were trying to give the impression that it was a fact that your area is high achieving in terms of raw numbers of state schooled candidates getting into Oxbridge. My point was simply that this is not the case.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Tue 27-May-14 12:15:11

Ok blue to be clear I meant Why didn't your clever-enough-to-stand-a-reasonable-chance-based-on-academic-ability child apply...?

I'm trying to puzzle out why TiP's state sixth formers are apparently more resilient than Shooting's independent girls. Is there less ferocious parental anxiety?

TalkinPeace Tue 27-May-14 12:18:08

It gets good numbers of those who WANT to go.
But lots of people - particularly engineers - have better options.
I know from friends that those who are identified at GCSE as having the option are given good advice and support and have good success rates.
The fact that Oxbridge may not be their final choice says more about Oxbridge than it does about them.

(and FWIW one of my kids does plan to go, probably. The other definitely not)

TheWordFactory Tue 27-May-14 12:23:31

talkin the first in class model is interesting.

But of course the American system of study post 18 is very different to the UK.

As you know, everyone there will continue with a fairly broad education at tertiary level, so it's easier to pick out who is top in class across the board.

In the UK, rightly or wrongly, our students specialise post 16. It is therefore very difficult to rank them. Does an A* student in MFL beat an A* student in Classics? Etc etc.

If everyone did Bac or Pre-U things would be different of course.

AdeleNazeem Tue 27-May-14 12:25:51

because she is doing a degree in an art/design subject, and its crap for them grin. Art schools have their own 'elites' and are very much about the subject

...and she wouldn't want to. thinks its ridiculously overrated, and outdated (opinions she has largely got from me !)

TheWordFactory Tue 27-May-14 12:28:31

Talkin I think it's very easy (lazy?) and comforting (delusional?) to think that people could go to Oxbridge if they wanted to, but they don't want to...

But you have to unpick the reasons why they don't want to. There are many good and justified reasons, but the last time I was in Hampshire, many of the reasons given were just plain wrong. Young people labouring under completely wrong impressions as if they were fact.

If someone chooses not to go because they don't think they would enjoy the tute system, or whatever then that's cool. But not wanting to go because you think it costs more than other universities is not a real choice, is it?

calmet Tue 27-May-14 12:34:15

Some of you talk about going to schools where the brightest kids were encouraged to go to these universities. The school I went to, and that my niece and nephews go to, never even mention Cambridge or Oxford as an option. Indeed it is assumed, many pupils will not go to university at all, and they don't.

If nobody ever suggests these universities as an option, and give you accurate information, then you are left with only stereotypes. My only knowledge of cambridge and oxford came from films from the 1960's which showed a very upper class and white male environment. In these films, even the occasional white man from a lower class background, were shown as having a hard time as they didn't fit in.

TalkinPeace Tue 27-May-14 12:35:20

When of course Oxbridge is cheaper - because room fees cover holidays - unlike many other Unis grin

Crap careers advice in schools and colleges is an issue

but Oxbridge also need to be a LOT pickier about the number of middling Public School boys they let in without taking into account the undue influence of personalised teaching - getting rid of the whole Bullingdon Club set and their ilk would be a good start.

Morgause Tue 27-May-14 12:38:05

DS1 wanted a modern university so applied to Warwick. He went to look around some Oxbridge colleges but found them a bit too stuffy for him. DS2 visited him at Warwick and decided it was for him as well.

OH was accepted for Oxford but declined in favour of UC London - it was the 60s and everyone wanted to be in London in the 60s.

TheWordFactory Tue 27-May-14 12:40:57

Oxbridge college fees are certainly cheaper than some other unversities (Bristol rank as bloody extortionate).

Also, there are a hell of a lot of bursaries for Oxbridge students to access. Far more than anywhere else.

Personally, I think the ban on term time working is an issue, and I say that regularly.

As for places being offered to middling kids from public school. I really don't think that's been an issue for a long time. The average successful applicant will have stellar grades wherever they're educated.

Cambridge in particular is a fan of the A* offer, and I really don't think anyone middling can manage those.

ZeroSomeGameThingy Tue 27-May-14 12:43:43

The school I went to, and that my niece and nephews go to, never even mention Cambridge or Oxford as an option. Indeed it is assumed, many pupils will not go to university at all, and they don't.

calmet Who is noticing this? I refuse to believe that none of the parents care. (And I'm not saying that university is the only acceptable future, there may well be better options for some - but there must be a fair number of children there who are missing out on this particular opportunity?)

smokepole Tue 27-May-14 12:46:17

In lots of ways, this is an elitist thread and relates maybe to the top 3% of the ability range. There was another equally insulting post a while back, about there being no point going to University, unless it was a Russell Group University. However, Niece 1 was offered either Cambridge/Oxford and turned both down, as both were "outdated and full of people, who don't understand the world outside academia", the words of niece 1.

There was a girl from DD1s Secondary ( The type of Secondary that exists in Kent), who was offered a place at Cambridge, who came back from the interview so demoralized , she jacked going to university in totally, she is now working in a shop aged 19. It was not the fees or cost of accommodation , but the attitude of the interviewers.

calmet Tue 27-May-14 12:48:20

You need teachers who both suggest it as an option to the brightest pupils, and coaching to help children get there.

The person who said the universities should never have got rid of the entrance exam - many poorer pupils did not know there was an entrance exam. So it was only when they went to complete their UCAS form, that they found out it was too late to apply.

Knowledge really is power.

Nocomet Tue 27-May-14 12:52:01

I wanted to study Astrophysics, it wasn't an Oxbridge subject.
Likewise DD1 wants do do something specific.

DH did natural sciences at Cambridge and loved it.

DD2, might be bright enough if she really works, but she isn't that keen on hard work, she refused to try for the grammar. She's very much one for a good life work balance and a child of the 21st Century. I don't think dreaming towers will appeal.

Fairylea Tue 27-May-14 12:56:33

I think it takes a good teacher to spot potential to encourage people to apply.

I went to a state school then won a full scholarship to a private school for my a levels in London. Then one of my a level teachers encouraged me to apply to Oxford. My mum was actually trying to discourage me because she didn't believe people like us would get in (this was 1998 by the way).

My teacher found out when the open day was and booked myself and my mum train tickets as we were so poor we couldn't even afford them so we could go and look! Mum was so excited, we hadn't had a day out together in years.

I applied and was accepted.

As a side note however I never actually went. My gran was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer a few months before I was due to go and I turned down the place to help my mum care for her at home.

I never went to university at all in the end. I managed a career as a senior marketing manager and then met dh and became a very happy sahm!

ZeroSomeGameThingy Tue 27-May-14 12:58:58
calmet Tue 27-May-14 13:02:08

Fairylea - That is a very unusual teacher. I couldn't afford to attend interviews either, but was offered an unconditional place at the university I went to.

I don't think middle class people even think about these practical barriers.

Because DS was perfectly happy to apply for a range of other universities which were just as good for his choice of subject.

Why this belief that Oxbridge are automatically 'the best' for all subjects and all students? There are many extremely good universities in this country.

There's a strange attitude in the press that anyone who can get a place at Oxbridge would be silly not to take it, and anyone who might get a place would be silly not to apply. Why? They really aren't all that. Not the best place for every subject, or for every person.

BlueStringPudding Tue 27-May-14 13:08:48

DD1 is predicted A*A*A and has straight A*/As at GCSE and was originally thinking of applying, and was encouraged to do so by her sixth form college (state). However after attending an Oxbridge event, and a taster day (at Cambridge), she decided that she didn't like the atmosphere, and that a lot of the students that had presented had come across as arrogant and condescending.

From what she said the living in colleges for all 3 years, and the ban on term time working also put her off. I also think she's not confident of getting the grades predicted (although got full UMS in one subject, and an avg of 95 UMS on the second). She also didn't want to take an extra entrance exam. She applied to and was offered Durham, and turned that down too, and has accepted a place at Bristol.

DD2 (in lower sixth currently), wants to apply to Cambridge, and we're going to an open day. However, recent reports of appalling sexist behaviour (in the press - The Times I think) there concern me, particularly as women are under-represented in DD's preferred subject. I also think that DD puts quite a lot of pressure on herself, and that Cambridge might exacerbate that. Having said that, the Tutor groups would definitely suit her. However, it's her choice, but at the moment it's not my preference for her.

Shootingatpigeons Tue 27-May-14 13:34:03

zero I do think parental pressure is a factor in the attitudes of the girls at DDs school both in terms of rebelling against pressure and the pressure it puts those who apply under. The roots lie in the fever of parental anxiety and competitiveness at 11.

I am not sure it is a lack of resilience though, you could argue that a straight A* student at a very academic school not applying to Oxbridge in spite of every encouragement and support is showing independence and resilience, you are assuming it is a negative choice, to not go for it, whereas I think it is seen as a positive choice to dismiss all it would ask of you as not worthwhile and a distraction and go for all the other excellent options of university and course.

I also think that living in London and attending schools where a lot of families are from other cultures gives you an awareness of what is available in terms of career and the actual value of Oxbridge as a brand worldwide. The alumnae who return to talk about the jobs they are succeeding in that appeal to the girls, in the media, culture, advertising, fashion, medicine, banking, overseas are not particularly the Oxbridge successes. My older DDs year just graduated and it is the graduate of a lowly RG that has landed a dream job and is besieged by the confidant alpha girls including those who went to Oxbridge who thought it was all going to land in a plate asking what exactly they need to do to their CVs. I pointed out to DD that they missed the point, what got her the job was her personal qualities, and not walking in with a sense of entitlement (the flip side of that awareness)

TheWordFactory Tue 27-May-14 13:45:39

bluestring am sure your DD will be happy at Bristol, but as a point to note, the percentage of privately educated students is much higher than Oxbridge!

MarshaBrady Tue 27-May-14 13:50:14

Only taking the top ten pupils at one school sounds very interesting. It would change things remarkably wouldn't it.

Not sure what kind of scrabbling around would occur if they made that change.

Weegiemum Tue 27-May-14 13:53:13

My dd1 won't apply, though she's clever enough and will have the "right" qualifications.

She's very creative and even though she's not at the right age (she's 14) already has A grades in Art and technical studies (last year).

Her career choice is to do stage/film design. She's already in a scholarship program at the Scottish Conservitours (was RSAMD) in stage design. Oxbridge can't give her what she'll learn here!

DS (12) already wants to go to either Dundee uni (computer game design) or MIT (for the same). We'll give them what they will benefit most from.

Dd2 wants to study Zoology at Glasgow Uni (we live in Glasgow, she's 10). I can't promise her that she'll be the next David Attenborough, but that's her aim!!

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