RG unis - are they really THAT difficult to get in?

(168 Posts)
Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 13:13:36

The more I read MN, the more my eyes seem to be opened up to a world I don't recognize. I guess it's true that we don't actually live in one world, but rather in smaller worlds that co-exist on one planet.

I have read, for example, that some state schools never manage to send any child to a RG uni, and a lot of people who are very supportive about state schools get very, very upset by that.

As someone who went to a RG uni, whose DH, SILs, friends (and their DHs) and even colleagues also went to such unis... are they really THAT difficult to get in? Some of those listed went to state schools. It didn't look as though they saw these unis as "out of reach".

Sometimes, I do wonder whether it is actually the nation's obsession of getting as many kids as possible into uni that makes the world seem so much more unfair. Because you have to admit that not many people went to uni in previous generations, and it is virtually impossible for everyone to attend Oxbridge (maybe in future, people can attend lectures online, etc.). So some people will HAVE to be left out. Is that really so bad?

We don't live in a communist state... but even the old Soviet Union had universities that were out of bounds for many.

ISingSoprano Thu 21-Feb-13 13:27:39

I think it depends on the course rather than the university. Some courses are VERY competitive, others less so. My children are state educated but have always been encouraged to aim high, Oxbridge and RG universities are entirely within reach.

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 13:41:01

I went to an RG uni and they were quite difficult to get into even then - certainly 1 or 2 A grades at A level were expected BUT less people overall applied so competition wasn't so crazy and generally A level grades of applicants were lower (no A* grade even existed).

Now, some unis may still say they require AAB for a particular course but in truth, unless you have 4A* you haven't a hope of getting a place because so many of the other applicants have 4A* plus relevant work experience plus 13 GCSEs.
I didn’t get the grade requirement for my course. It was a popular course (one of the ones that is still hard to get on to) but I got a place based on my interview and based on the fact that there weren’t 300 other applicants that had wildly higher grades than I did. Nowadays I am sure they wouldn't touch me with a barge pole but then my A Level grades date back from an era when a grade B was really good, a grade A was astonishing and very rare and a grade A* was a silly, made-up grade that didn't exist.

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 13:55:58


I think we may have lived in a similar era!

Has anyone figured out yet where this grade inflation comes from? Are exams really easier or are kids just being prepared better?!? Because I highly doubt the new generation is twice as intelligent...

MirandaWest Thu 21-Feb-13 13:57:17

I went to a 1994 university (is now a RG one). I didn't need any As to get in (was nearly 20 years ago though).

lemonmajestic Thu 21-Feb-13 14:12:10

I went to an RG university in the 1980s and there were loads of students on my course who went to state schools and had obtained 3 As at A level. It was quite a large course approx 100 students per year group and the offer given was in the range of BBB or BBC. I exceeded this (but did not get 3 As). I even know of a few students on less popular courses who had obtained places through Clearing which would be unheard of now!

Re Grade inflation. There are several factors to take into account:
1. All students who obtain a mark of say 75% (some papers not marked out of 100) will obtain a grade A. In the old days only the top 10% of students obtained an A regardless of the marks obtained.
2. A levels have been separated into AS and A2 levels and most students take 4 subjects for AS and 3 subjects for A2. This allows some students to drop their "weakest" subject after AS and just do their 3 "best" subjects so this will weed out some students and raise achievement at A2.
3. A level resits used to be very rare. Now many students will resit some modules to increase their marks.

lyndie Thu 21-Feb-13 14:14:02

St Andrews isn't RG and it has world class status in some departments. Very competitive to get into! I also went to Manchester which is RG, I didn't rate it any differently because it was RG.

titchy Thu 21-Feb-13 14:15:33

Don't forget the RG and 1994 group have only existed for 19 years. Before that there wasn't really an awareness of institutional quality, other than university was perceived as better than polytechnic.

And yes clearly exams are easier - at least it is easier to get an A than it was 20 years ago. The ABC I got back in the day would probably equate to A*, A, B these days.

Don't forget intelligence does not peceptably increase in just one generation.

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 14:16:43


Do you know who made the above changes to the exam? Why was point 1 in particular changed?

Doing it the old way would have resulted in a 'normal distribution' of grades. The new way would skew this up a lot...

BoringSchoolChoiceNickname Thu 21-Feb-13 14:41:09

Intelligence (as measured by IQ test performance) will have increased measurably between today's 37 year olds and today's 17 year olds, they have to recalibration the tests regularly so that 100 remains the average. But the effect isn't enough to explain the grade improvements in full.

Yellowtip Thu 21-Feb-13 14:46:03

Grade inflation hasn't markedly affected the intake in the most competitive departments in the most competitive universities. Outreach has affected the intake rather more, but differently.

lemonmajestic Thu 21-Feb-13 14:49:28

I would suggest that you look at the following links about A levels Development of A levels
and Research on Grade Inflation.

Point 1 was changed because it meant that students in high achieving years had to obtain higher marks to get a grade A than students in a low achieving year. It was supposed to mean that a grade A student was at the same (high) standard every year.

There were significant changes to A levels in 2000 when the Labour Government wanted to increase the number of students who were qualified to go to university. These measures are generally believed to have led to "grade inflation". However there is some debate as to whether or not grade inflation is real and many or the newspaper articles on the subject may well have a political bias.

Scrazy Thu 21-Feb-13 14:50:26

Offers are often lowered for students from lower performing state schools and then again on results day if grades are missed. That was the case last year, when numbers of applicants were down.

Yellowtip Thu 21-Feb-13 14:58:15

tiggy that's just not true about 4A* at A level being the de facto requirement for any course at any university, sorry.

ArielThePiraticalMermaid Thu 21-Feb-13 15:04:34

I don't even know what an "RG uni" is? confused7

Did I go to one? Nottingham. I went to a State school.

Or is it just Oxbridge (we had seven in our year go)

ArielThePiraticalMermaid Thu 21-Feb-13 15:04:46

Sorry about random 7.

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 15:07:14

Yellowtip - what I meant is that, whilst published admission criteria may state AAB for example, no candidate with AAB actually stands a good chance of getting an offer because so many of the other applicants have A*A*AA and above.

I have just looked up the entry requirements for my course at my old uni and it says "Although entry requirements will fall within the range A*AA-AAA, candidates can expect to receive offers at the top end of this range"

singaporeswing Thu 21-Feb-13 15:07:15

I went to a RG uni and graduated in 2011, studying a language with Business. My course requirements were BBC and I got BBB.

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 15:08:07

Yes Nottingham is RG

I got into Bristol in 1983 with a B and 2 C's - just what I needed

There's been a lot of grade inflation since then so I hear !

Hope the DC's will be able to enjoy a course at a similar Uni. Perhaps even a better one as I think they're brighter than me ...

As long as they can do something they enjoy, and that will hopefully be helpful to them on their life journey smile

Reality Thu 21-Feb-13 15:09:32

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ArielThePiraticalMermaid Thu 21-Feb-13 15:10:56


gazzalw Thu 21-Feb-13 15:11:51

I think in the 1980s (and I daresay earlier but not quite that old!) it was possible to get into some RG Unis with B/C/C or B/B/C or if you were lucky even B/C/D. Of course a lot did get As but by no means were those sort of grades exclusive!

weegiemum Thu 21-Feb-13 15:12:31

I went to a comp and got into a RG uni (Edinburgh) with Highers at AAABCC. I was one of about 40 in my year who got in to RG unis.

However I know that I'd now need AAAAA to get in (Highers come somewhere about A2 level).

More people going to uni, so they can be more picky!

BackforGood Thu 21-Feb-13 15:12:35

Am I missing something here?
Presumably, if Russell Group Universities are perceived as being the best Universities, then, they will automatically take the top 10% (or 15% or 20% or whatever % they cover out of all universities), so therefore, of course they are more difficult to get in to for your average Joe Student, as your average, isn't going to be in the top 10% / 20% however many it is ? Isn't that kind of stating the obvious ? Or am I missing something here.confused

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 15:15:14


See here:
Russell Group

Yep, you were at a RG uni...

gazzalw Thu 21-Feb-13 15:17:08

I think in the 1980s it was less than 20% of the 18 year olds that went on to further education (including polys) rather than the 50% currently heading off to Unis. So you are probably right that it's still the same top 10 - 15 % who make it...

FWIW I think at the grammar school I went to probably 70% went on to RG Unis but then that's 70% of the top 20/25%. Certainly looking at DS's super-selective grammar school's leavers' destination list, I would say that virtually all except the few studying art/drama headed to RG Unis....But I would expect that...

ArielThePiraticalMermaid Thu 21-Feb-13 15:18:01

Thanks Tas. Cor blimey. Who knew?

Startail Thu 21-Feb-13 15:22:49

lemonmajestic I did my A levels and a 1/10th grade increase a year looks about right.

I have an old prospectus from 88 (I changed courses) with both grades asked for and grades accepted for my (now) RG uni.

Courses that were asking for BBC and accepting BCC are now asking for straight As if popular and very occasionally AAB. I bet many are taking A*AA.

I'd rather like to apply some grade inflation to my D for maths, but do wonder what happens to an A for biology (as I have distinction at Slevel, I want something better than an A* grin)

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 15:27:25


Yes, if they are meant to be the top unis, they should only take the top students.

It didn't seem too difficult in shock "my days" though. I had 4 RG unis on my UCAS form - got offers from all of them. I was one of the 'brighter' kids but was nowhere near a genius... which is why I am a little shocked by what I read on MN these days. DH is more the genius type and went to one RG uni, realized during Year 1 that he hated it and left, then got into another one through clearing the following year. Some friends from my uni (prestigious RG uni) got in through clearing with B and C grades.

However, from what I seem to read on MN, it almost sounds impossible to get in these days!?! blush

gazzalw Thu 21-Feb-13 15:32:35

Maybe it's not impossible but just middle-class spin - the same as getting into the grammar schools! wink

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 15:34:05


My course gave offers around BCC (late 90s). Now it is asking for AAB at A-levels and 36 at IB.

Mind you, most of the people in my course had substantially better grades than a BCC.

Awks Thu 21-Feb-13 15:35:31

DD2 got into a RG with a BBC. But honestly her course is absolutely shite. This years first years are the last intake of this course (she's a 2nd year) and they obviously just cannot be arsed. So RG unis aren't always the best value for money/best education.

HeadFairy Thu 21-Feb-13 15:38:22

I got in to one (Leeds) in 1988 with ABCD (I like neat A level results) but I don't remember people talking about RG universities in hushed tones back then. Leeds was actually quite a half hearted choice on my part because I missed out on Edinburgh by one point and I just couldn't get excited about Leeds. I had fun, but it wasn't the city it is now. It was still pretty run down, not Paris of the north at all grin

Copthallresident Thu 21-Feb-13 15:51:09

My offer from a RG uni in the 70s for History was BC, now it is AAB. I don't think it is grade inflation, my DDs work / worked much harder for their A levels and DD2's History A level requires skills and levels of critical thinking I didn't develop until uni. However it was less competitive, for a start I was outnumbered 9 to 1 by boys, now it is roughly 50 / 50, that was an awful lot of very bright girls not getting to the playing field before you start on widening access, increasing competition from overseas students etc.

I would also say from within a RG/ 1994 Uni that standards are much higher, and the students have to work much harder too. Part of the raising of the bar for entry to uni courses is that those grades are what the students have to demonstrate that they can achieve in order for admission tutors to be sure they will succeed on the course.

However I would also say that often required grades are more to do with demand than the quality of the course and that demand is often driven by parental pressure which may well be out of step with the way in which unis and courses have changed. You see these attitudes manifested on Mumsnet all the time. There are plenty of good courses at RG unis that are less popular but no less academically demanding or well regarded in research terms etc. for which admissions requirements are not all As. There is for instance a low rent way into UCL, via it's SEES (School of Eastern European Studies) where you can be accepted to study History etc with lower grades than the mainstream courses, AAA - AAB v A*AA- AAA but I wonder how many employers would know the difference.

And actually the last couple of years it has become less competitive. DD1s year was very much as Tiggy Tape describes, and she had peers with lots of sad stories of missing out on places because they failed to get required grades by 1 UMS, because the unis had no leeway. However last year a combination of the fees hike deterring applicants, grade deflation and the relaxation of student quotas for those with AAB meant unis were taking students who missed their grades and very good unis were out shopping on clearing, and still a lot of the unis ended up short on numbers. It is generally considered that the Southamptons lost out to the UCLs.

Startail Thu 21-Feb-13 15:53:18

Yess I started life as a physicist and AAA was common because good mathematicians did maths and further maths without huge effort envy

I got in by the skin of my teath because I did 4 A levels, I did Biology for 'fun' got way my best grade and became a Biologist.

This is what I should have done to start with, but I'm an engineers daughter.

Startail Thu 21-Feb-13 15:54:38

I am going to do some house work my spellings gone totally to pot, this afternoon. Dyslexic brain in over drive.

lljkk Thu 21-Feb-13 16:08:52

Tell you something funny, I worked for a 1960s-established university for most of 15 years. Not RG.

One day I realised that almost all colleagues (RAs, PGs and lecturers & above) had been privately educated: a handful came thru grammar school system. Very very few from bog standard comps. (I come from mediocre state ed in another country).

Our dept was one of only 2 in UK with a 5* on the RAE. Massive research funding. Had to have min. AAB to get into the undergrad course. Back in the days before A* existed at A-level.

The uni as a whole had Very high satisfaction ratings in student surveys. But of course it wasn't RG, so it must be one of the rubbish universities according to MN.

There's a lot I don't believe about what I read on MN about value of degrees from RG or other types of universities. I've heard some brill research come out of the ex-polys, too.

I think my dd (Y9) will get higher grades than I did not only from simple grade inflation, but I think her teachers are helping her to be more focused on developing her critical thinking skills and knowing what she needs to do in each subject to improve. For example she has gone on an art trip today and has a choice of questions to answer depending on which level she wants to aim for.
All of this seems much more explicit than when I was at school and things were much more wooley. I remember using my initiative and getting hold of the exam syllabus for example - these sort of things weren't offered to us by any means in the early 80's. I think internet access has also opened their world to an encyclopedic quantity and quality of information.
It does seem a very different learning environment today.
But I guess if you look at it from a % point of view, it will still be the top 10% or so getting into the RG's

< Preens slightly. Feathers her nest for her little fledglings wink >

Cromwell44 Thu 21-Feb-13 16:19:16

If competion is greater it's down to the increased number of applicants with strong A levels. The A level system is much more transparent now and teachers and students are more informed about what is required to get an A grade. In my experience kids also work much harder than most of me and my peers ever did.
Having said that, my DD is in UCAS for 2013 entry and offers are in line with what Universities publish. Three RG applications, 3 offers, AAA, AAB, AAB. My daughter has been predicted A*, A, B but the A* is a bit hopeful. Her non RG uni offers are both ABB.
She attends a good comprehensive which has about ten oxbridge and other medvet offers too - all normal kids.
I think a lot the angst is from parents and they create MC spin.
For example, I read on another thead that St Andrews was no good because its students were Bristol and Durham rejects!? hmm

tiggytape Thu 21-Feb-13 16:20:25

lljkk - I don't think all RG universities are massively better than all ex-polys but they are often much harder to get into and carry a reputation for being hard to get into which in turns makes them desirable. I went from a bog standard school to a RG uni and it wasn't a big deal - loads of people did. Once I got there the mix was about 50% private school and overseas students I'd guess. Grammar and comp students were very common (numerous I mean!)

It was considered a 'good' university or a 'traditional' university but then I was doing a traditional course so it was a good match. It had a good reputation for my subject. Had I been studying something else, or a combined degree, there would have been other unis at that time, and still now, that would have catered for it better.

Within certain fields there are unis that have better reputations than others. If I was employing design students I might have 2 or 3 top choice unis to pick from but they wouldn't be the same universities that I'd choose to recruit research Bio Chemists from necessarily.

Ronaldo Thu 21-Feb-13 16:43:43

OK, back in the day ( 1970's) most of thoseuni's now called RG made standard offers of CCC ( science) or BCC ( arts). How about that?

Now I understand it is AAB - although I currently have one student who has an RG offer of AAA (very unfair and discriminatory in my view because the student concerned is actually special needs and will not get AAA - AAB yes. - do I name and shame the uni?) and another for the same course who is offered an BBC.

Ronaldo Thu 21-Feb-13 16:47:26

It might also surprise some to know that severalof those on that RG list were pretty mediocre universities and also rans in my day (1973 - 76)

Yellowtip Thu 21-Feb-13 16:59:08

That wasn't the standard offer in the late seventies from Durham Ronaldo. Durham History asked for a minimum of BBC and Durham Law asked for a minimum of ABC.

I'm putting the EE offers from better places aside.

Ronaldo Thu 21-Feb-13 17:04:29

Well I guess that was grade inflation for you yellowtip.

btw, LSE and UCL always made EE offers as did Cambridge in my day ( not as they expected their candidates to achieve those minimums) I was given an EE conditional from a Cambridge College.

Copthallresident Thu 21-Feb-13 17:10:17

Ronaldo Believe it or not those universities have changed out of all recognition since the 70s.

Students and academic staff are of a far higher calibre and so are the courses. The latter have to be because those league tables only partially take into account the quality of research, student satisfaction is just as important. Universities feel far more accountable too, couldn't quite believe when returned to a RG / 1994 uni 5 years ago receiving a letter at my home address addressed to my parents to explain their strategy for dealing with an IR matter grin

A group of us sponsor a prize at my old RG (in memory of friend) and the department we studied in is transformed, in size, quality and standards, breadth, depth etc. etc. etc. We bumble along to the prize giving pretending to be the sages but actually in awe grin

gazzalw Thu 21-Feb-13 17:10:22

Yes SIL got an EE offer from her Cambridge College too....she didn't get the AAA she was expected to (the serious boyfriend in sixth form effect, I think you'd call it!) but AAB and got in. But that was back in the days when you could either opt to get in on A Level grades or do the Oxbridge Exams in the Autumn Term (4 or 7)...

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 17:11:44


I knew someone who read Law in Durham, and got a DDD.

But I think a lot of strings were being pulled for that to happen...

Yellowtip Thu 21-Feb-13 17:17:32

tiggy I got exactly what you meant and what I mean is that there is no course at any university for any subject where a majority of applicants have four A* at A2. It's just not the reality.

Yellowtip Thu 21-Feb-13 17:24:50

Tasmania without serious mitigating circumstances or being an Olympian sportsman, the absolute rule was ABC. It was a rule very strictly applied. Without the A you'd be declined. I'm very, very surprised about a DDDer. Which year was this?

Copthallresident Thu 21-Feb-13 17:25:58

I have a friend, one of 6, at bog standard comp, who walked into her Oxford interview in the 80s, the tutor asked if she wanted to go, she said Yes. and he said "You are in if you get two Es"!!

My tutor said he read my school reference and decided to be perverse and invite me for interview because to have got up the nose of my bunch of blue stocking teachers to the extent I clearly has I must be interesting. I got a 2.1 so his instinct was right.

This is where the point I made earlier comes in. In a situation where competition is as intense as it was up until the fees hike then universities simply do not have the leeway to relax entry requirements for students they have reason (school reference, gut feel, impressive personal statement etc.) to believe would do well. Even where there is overwhelming contextual evidence of disadvantage the leeway is very small. They have a student quota and many more highly qualified candidates than places.

Last summer things changed and more flexibility has crept into the process. For all the wrong reasons but perhaps this is one good side effect.

Yellowtip Thu 21-Feb-13 17:28:09

No it wasn't grade inflation ron. My elder sister was at Durham starting in '74 and those were the requirements then too.

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 17:30:43


Don't want to reveal too much - but it was more than a decade ago. If there were mitigating circumstances, I'd be surprised (let's leave it at that). And as said, I think there were a lot of strings being pulled.

gazzalw Thu 21-Feb-13 17:34:06

FIL always reckoned in the post-War years you could get into Oxford or Cambridge on beauty, brains, brawn or breeding....grin

piggywigwig Thu 21-Feb-13 17:37:05

I went to an RG uni and they were quite difficult to get into even then - certainly 1 or 2 A grades at A level were expected BUT less people overall applied so competition wasn't so crazy and generally A level grades of applicants were lower (no A* grade even existed).

I went to a RG uni in the 1980's from a state GS and was given an offer of two "E's for a hugely competitive course. I must have been a very good girl in a former life wink

maisiejoe123 Thu 21-Feb-13 18:26:59

Having attended a recent presentation at DS's school. In the 70's 5% went to univ. Now its 50% so there is lots of competition. Its doesnt necessarily mean that the RG universities are more difficult as a lot of the old poly's are now uni's!

But I do think you need the A's. The days of saying - get two E's and your in are long gone for a RG university

cory Thu 21-Feb-13 19:55:32

We certainly take plenty of state educated students. What won't happen, though, is a situation like that of dh- private school, failed his A-levels and was still taken on by UCL (and went on to get a 2:1).

Yellowtip Thu 21-Feb-13 20:12:26

maisie EE was only offered after interview and usually only after an entrance test too. Which distinguished it from modern offers (though I do know of an exceptional recent EE offer from Cambridge, where the college clearly just wanted the student in question).

Tasmania if no mitigating circumstances and no exceptional other time consuming talent, how did the DDD student fare? (you're going to tell me a high 2.1 or a First!).

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 20:20:12


Don't know - the student was a year below me, so already left by that time that person graduated. Seriously had no other time-consuming talent I can think of. Very average, if not very entitled at times. I can reveal it may have looked like a similar scenario to cory's DH at UCL.

I got what I would think of as a fairly easy offer (i.e. there was no way I wouldn't have gotten those grades). But I do think I wrote a killer personal statement grin - with no help from anyone, may I add. P.S.: I only know that now, after people showed me what they wrote!

BoringSchoolChoiceNickname Thu 21-Feb-13 20:56:50

I got a EE offer from (what is now) an RG university without an interview back in the bad old days, but I did have some quite hmm exam results and predictions at an unusually young age (although by modern standards they'd be pretty run of the mill).

Eastpoint Fri 22-Feb-13 08:11:44

As far as I'm aware no Oxford colleges specify A*s, I know Cambridge colleges do, usually in the subject you intend to study. Of course some successful applicants will have multiple A*s.

I have my old school magazines from the 70s & 80s and the number of o levels used to be recorded. Assuming the pupils of a London fee-paying (ex-direct grant) school have not changed the grades have changed enormously. A friend of mine got a 2 E offer from UCL to read history. I was offered CCC by Exeter for something similar.

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 08:45:42

OP, for the more competitive courses the requirements tend to be AAA or AAB for RG universities.

And there was a recent report saying many state schools and sixth form colleges failed to produce students with those grades, ergo, no one could go to RG universities.

Can anyone else remember the report? It was quite recent, I think?

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 08:55:58

Ishould say though, that I don't believe the issue is really one of state or private sector.

The issue is one of not being middle class. The middle classes dominate the RG universities. DC from working class backgrounds, even those on income levels comparable to middle class families, fare worse in education generally.

Ronaldo Fri 22-Feb-13 09:57:31

well I am sure you will all be pleased to know that in the news today, it seems RG universities asre admitting to lowering grades ( to B and C) for DC from state schools in recognition of the fact they cannot make the AAB marker.

crazynanna Fri 22-Feb-13 10:12:10

My DD (age 27) messed about at school, and was a constant frustration for her teachers and myself, as we knew she would have done well in her exams (she is definitly the brightest of my dcs academically)

Fast forward 2 years ago, and she decided she wanted to go back to education.
She did one of those Access courses (as had no GCSEs or A levels), and got 2 offers, one being in the list of RG universities, but she chose one of the others as it did the precise course she wanted. Her tutor at college where she did the AC was livid with her for not choosing the RG one, but it did not phase her. She wasn't bothered about the RG rep.

crazynanna Fri 22-Feb-13 10:12:35

Sorry...not 2 offers, it was 3 offers.

Yellowtip Fri 22-Feb-13 10:13:07

Eastpoint Oxford colleges most certainly do!

Yellowtip Fri 22-Feb-13 10:15:29

And Eastpoint the pupil profile of the old direct grant schools will have changed significantly (I was also a direct grant pupil at a London school).

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 10:25:22


This is the link for anyone who is interested about some schools not producing the AAB candidates.

tiredaftertwo Fri 22-Feb-13 10:27:22

Wordfactory, I think you are thinking of the report after the secondary school league tables were published.

The BBC and others ran a story saying there were lots of state schools where no-one was getting good grades in three facilitating subjects. They went on to say this meant no-one would qualify for RG universities.

The reports were wrong. The RG Informed Choices guide makes clear that facilitating subjects are a way of keeping your options open. It does not say you need three of them but recommends two.

Why they included three as a measure in the league tables is beyond me. Westminster scored under 50% (if memory serves - but you get the point - it is not a measure of university admissions success and the journalists who could not be bothered to read the Informed Choices guide, preferring to jump on a state school bashing bandwagon instead, should be ashamed).

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 10:32:52

That's interesting tired.

To be fair, I had assumed that those colleges which didn't produce the RG candidates would be more technical places where no one wants to go down that route anyway IYSWIM.

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 10:33:51

ronaldo do you have a link? I've tapped in A levels/news/RG etc and can't find a thing.

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 10:38:37

I found this www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=422743&c=1

But it seems to be saying that the offers are the same, just that the private school pupils often have grades higher than the offer.

Or have I gone bonkers?

Coconutty Fri 22-Feb-13 10:44:14

Anyone else think that due to the costs involved now of going to uni, that applications are going to be way down anyway? Several people I know say they are encouraging their dcs to do apprenticeships now when they would have pushed for uni before.

Coconutty Fri 22-Feb-13 10:45:22

Also, 4A* to get in IS bullshit.

badguider Fri 22-Feb-13 10:50:31

There is so much fetishisation of RG universities on MN - it's very odd. The 'best' university to go to depends on the course you are studying.

I just had to google to find out what are RG unis and discovered that I got unconditional offers to two but chose a non-RG one for my undergrad and did go to an RG for my post-grad but only because of the course on offer.

The one I went to for my undergraduate degree which was not RG is ALWAYS in the top five in the Guardian league tables.

mistlethrush Fri 22-Feb-13 10:52:44

I got an offer from a RG uni of CC for a highly thought of course. Ended up going to a different one that had given me a higher (BBC) but got higher grades than that anyway. I understand some maths courses are spending quite a bit of time in the first year getting students up to the level they would have expected them to arrive at 20 years ago....

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 10:54:57

coco I am certain that numbers will fall, and the numbers will fall among those already uncertain of the benefits of an RG university education.

The middle class students will find a way - loans, help from family, work.

They will continue to see it as an investment in their future.

Then there is the thorny issue of internships...

tiredaftertwo Fri 22-Feb-13 10:55:19

It's a muddled piece Wordfactory, but I think you are right. In any case, the comparison assumes that all RG universities and courses are the same, in admissions terms, when clearly they are not. I thought lots of courses had standard offers - which some people will then exceed.

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 10:56:20

I suppose therefore, that numbers will fall in the universities less popular with the MC.

Oxbridge, Durham, Warwick, Bristol, Exeter et al should remain full.

Ronaldo Fri 22-Feb-13 11:00:18


This is from the online version of the Daily Mail. I read it in the actual paper this morning. Sorry about the delay in linking

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 11:01:23

badguider I think that is true of a minority of subjects.

However, IMVHO, for many popular subjects (law, history, english etc) the RG universities remain the best, in terms of calibre of fellow students, calibre of teachers and kudos attached.

badguider Fri 22-Feb-13 11:10:38

lol wordfactory when i saw your first line i immediately thought - "no, it's true for everything except english and history!" (i don't know about law).
Then I read on and I guess we sort of agree... but then I would be a bit unsure about advising any DC to study for an english or history degree anywhere these days.

Copthallresident Fri 22-Feb-13 11:20:35

I think Ronaldo is speaking about this www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9885413/State-school-pupils-get-easier-access-to-top-universities.html How did I guess it would be the Telegraph hmm Also here www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=422743 which appears to be based on an analysis of the grades achieved by those going to 19 of the 24 RG unis and finding a 10% gap between the number of A and A* grades achieved by those from private and state schools and that 23.4% of grades achieved by state school candidates were B's and C's and 18.2% of private schools.

Lots of drawbacks to this, it certainly doesn't prove universities are hugely dropping their offers for state school candidates. Firstly, as Professor Vignoles says, it is actual achieved grades, not required grades, some students will exceed the offer, and last year quite a few did not achieve their offer but were allowed in anyway. It may well be that private school candidates were more likely to have overachieved. It also does not take account of any difference in courses applied for, it may be that state school applicants are over represented amongst those applying for courses with lower offers.

What it does tell us is that only about half of all grades achieved were A/A* even amongst private pupils so the idea you have to get 3 As to get into RG unis is clearly not correct. Secondly the numbers of Bs and Cs achieved by state and private school candidates were really not that different, 5%.

I would say these figures may well be consistent with the fair access practise at my uni of lowering offers for those with contextual evidence that demonstrates disadvantage, simply attending a state school will not constitute disadvantage, attending a poorly performing one, poor teaching, poverty, carer responsibilities, learning difficulties etc. will. Pupils whose offers are lowered are in the main, though not exclusively, from state schools. The statistics say that around 5% more state school pupils were allowed in with B and C grades. some of those may not have achieved offers and been let in anyway so we are talking about that process of allowing for disadvantage resulting in probably quite a lot less than 5% difference in the number of state school applicants being allowed in with B and C grades. Rather than saying the playing field has been levelled too far it doesn't sound as if it is enough............

I can't get to the base statistics though because if 66% of grades achieved by state school applicants and 72% of those achieved by private school applicants were As Bs or Cs that is rather a lot of Ds and Es ..............confused

Scrazy Fri 22-Feb-13 11:20:35

Our school is in a mixed class, fully comprehensive area. DC's of professionals through to unskilled workers attend. Most opt to stay in the state system as the local indie school don't get better results and do the IB which brings a few of the indie pupils into our sixth form.

I know for a fact that only one, yes one pupil achieved AAB and 2 of those were art subjects. One got ABB in science subjects, however I would estimate around 8 managed to get into Russell Group Universities, even if they missed their offers by a couple of grades and so they should have been allowed giving that the odds were against them in the first place.

This was last year so entry levels being down made a difference but I believe in earlier years a few still got in if they dropped grades.

Copthallresident Fri 22-Feb-13 11:21:44

Ronaldo Not even the Telegraph hmm

Copthallresident Fri 22-Feb-13 11:23:38

I should add it also says 42% of the grades attained by state school pupils were A/A* which given the selective nature of private schools isn/'t that far behind the 52% attained by private school pupils.

higgle Fri 22-Feb-13 11:25:37

info here DS2 has had offers from 2 Russell Group Unis for autumn 2013, ABB Manchester and AAB Leeds. He is at a state grammar and all his friends have similar offers. He will be doing a very popular course. Surely these are not grades a good state school would struggle to meet?

Copthallresident Fri 22-Feb-13 11:27:56

Also I am on a train battling with my ipad so my terminology may not be precise but you get the general sense of the figures not justifying the headlines.

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 11:30:49

cop that would be my understanding.

A minority of pupils receive a contextualised offer. This reflects real disadvantage and is as it should be.

A few more fail to get the grades, but are still allowed to attend.

And without doubt certain courses are more private school heavy. And these tend to be courses with the highest entry requirement.

I suppose a screaming headline saying state schooled pupils are being allowed in with owrse grades makes better copy.

Ronaldo Fri 22-Feb-13 11:32:16

Not my choice of paper. It is available free online though

tiredaftertwo Fri 22-Feb-13 11:32:18

Great post Copthallresident, thank you.

Is anyone else frustrated that the quality of reporting on this very important issue is so bad? So much of it seems to perpetuate myths casually, like the BBC piece, and that only makes it harder to identify exactly where inequalities arise and how they can be addressed, or to have a sensible debate about it (apart from on MN smile).

Often those same journalists then write pieces about how easy today's exams are - perhaps they should try a stats paper.

Ronaldo Fri 22-Feb-13 11:47:53

Actually I can believe it is true. Much as some may not like it. I am not sure though that it is necessarily always lowering grades. I have as I said b efore a very good student who will get AAB - this is the standard offer of an RG uni for her course choice. She is from a top private school and they made her an offer of AAA , totally discriminatory in my view. They should be sued.

On the other hand I have a lad with a AAB offer from the same university and same course and I have a chineese girl with an offer of CC ( yes thats right) She will get AAA any way.

I also know because I have been told that the local hell hole is being made offers ( same courses) of BBC and CCC for their students. So I ask why?

In my view all offers should be social class and school blind. Its the only fair way. I was never offered a place because of my naff schooling. I competed on equal terms ( and I am proud of that - I achieved without "positive discrimination"). If you give DC places because of social engineering you open then to claims that they are only there because they were helped along and really they are "fick" and shouldnt be there. Never good to do that. It crerates resentment

Abra1d Fri 22-Feb-13 11:51:38

Perhaps we need our own MN university.

Admission by aptitude test. Designed by us. grin

Copthallresident Fri 22-Feb-13 12:01:26

Ronaldo The reason I come at this from the perspective of the need to level the playing field is that both research and experience shows that the pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds who are enabled to make successful applications (and remember this is done not just by some marginal changes in required grades, it is getting out into some of these "hell holes" and encouraging them to apply, providing them with mentors to motivate them to do well, giving them the right advice about subject and course choices etc etc) do really well when they get to university, better than those who have not experienced disadvantage. They also bring interesting perspectives to the courses, especially in humanities and social science courses, enriching the experience for the other students. Universities are not engaging in these activities as part of some box ticking exercise, they are doing it because they want the best students, that is why the OFA has been dissuaded from imposing indiscriminate state/ private quotas.

Scrazy Fri 22-Feb-13 12:06:56

Ronaldo, you said the 'local hell hole', where it's just possible bright students might be lurking, the universities know looking at the school that achieving 3 B's is tremendous due to below standard teaching and other circumstances. I don't see why those pupils shouldn't be given a chance.

The widening access course we looked at which was so small in size and super competative proved that students from disadvantaged backgrounds/schools with say BBB at A level did just as well in the course as students from good indie's and grammars with AAA grades.

Scrazy Fri 22-Feb-13 12:07:45

Cop, cross post grin.

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 12:09:59

ronaldo both my DC are in the independent sector, so if I really thought they were somehow being disadvantaged, I'd the first to cry not fair.

But I really don't see it.

The sixth forms at both my DCs schools merrily trotted off to RG universities this year. A few didn't get the Oxbridge place they wanted but that is always a bit of a lottery that one, particularly the highly competitive courses they were after.

The reality is that some really bright pupils simply don't get decent support, either from home or school. With the right support in university, they can do very well. Universities recognise this, which is one of the reasons why they seek them out and help them.

We're not talking wholesale social engineering.

Abra1d Fri 22-Feb-13 12:12:35

I can see that you have to take into account that some students may come from disadvantaged backgrounds and schools, but it does seem that this is somehow discriminating against other students who are clever and well taught. And isn't it a disincentive to poorly performing schools with poor teaching to actually get their acts together and improve? If they can just tell themselves it doesn't matter because allowances will be made: student X will get into somewhere good with BBB so why push him and ourselves to get AAA?

Ronaldo Fri 22-Feb-13 12:13:12

Scrazy - unlikely that the students are bright. In my area there are three grammar schoiols creaming off the top percentage+ and then there are schools like that I work in offering scholarships. Nothing left and hence it is the hell hole not the other way round ( poor bright kids in a sink school . school is sink because no bright kids in it)

Scrazy Fri 22-Feb-13 12:17:21

Only 1 person got an Oxbridge offer from the local comprehensive school, it is a true comprehensive due to no grammars.

The offer was missed and they bent over backwards to try and get that student in. They were prepared to accept lower grades but it was missed. They have made a new offer this year with a retake. Now this student isn't disadvantaged, oxbridge educated parents etc, but the school definitely is way down in the league tables so even Oxbridge recognise this and said student will be the first in many years to get into Oxbridge.

scottishmummy Fri 22-Feb-13 12:17:45

God Im waiting on the stealth braggers turning up to go on about their rg uni,
How a vairy naice life is only guaranteed by attendance at rg uni and dose of Chaucer
Then bemoan anything not rg and mutter darkly about media studies

Ronaldo Fri 22-Feb-13 12:20:07

Take a deep breath ladies - I think this idea of disadvantage and whistling down a coal mine to find the bright rising star who is under privledged is a myth.

I suspect it may always have been ( and there is evidence for that too from the 1960's).

Lack olf ability is largely what is holding these DC back now.

Dont try to tell this SM lad differently. I have seen nearly all of it before.

Scrazy Fri 22-Feb-13 12:22:04

Ronaldo, this isn't the same in my area at all but the school still doesn't churn out AAB students ten to the dozen. Maybe that's because they are all fick in our area hmm.

Creaming off the top 25% might not get the late achievers, not all children hit their optimum intelligence, determination level at aged 11.

As Cop said, if a student has the right mentor and backing then even with B's and C's at a low achieving school they often do just as well as the straight A students once at university.

Ronaldo Fri 22-Feb-13 12:24:07

Edu rubbish spout afgain - late achievers and all that . never met one yet.

if the school is failinbg you need to look at why - realisitically, not churn the disadvantage myth around. It does no one any favours.

Copthallresident Fri 22-Feb-13 12:24:20

Abr1d Hopefully those schools are being motivated to improve by OFSTED and increasingly by links to other schools who are outstanding in similar environments, and to improve in terms of delivering teaching and learning outcomes that enable all their pupils to achieve their potential, not just the brightest.

So levelling the playing field for the disadvantaged is disadvantaging the advantaged? Only in the sense they were over privileged in the first place. I have two DDs who have been / are in very selective indies and they certainly appreciate they have had a lot of advantages over their peers in state schools, even those in outstanding comps but especially those in a comp in special measures in an area of deprivation. Comes as quite a shock when you are at a school where B is for bad and a cousin comments. "I were right good at Maths. I got a C"

morethanpotatoprints Fri 22-Feb-13 12:24:38

I left school with no qualifications and went back to college as a mature student. After several years of study and various quals, I was offered an unconditional place on a Masters course at Manchester, which somebody up thread said was an RG. The course was very popular and attracted far too many applicants.
So if Manchester is an RG then its possible to get in with equivalent quals to A levels and having gained no GCSE's.

So what are the other RG Uni's and what are the popular subjects?

minsmum Fri 22-Feb-13 12:28:28

My dd goes to a comprehensive school in a poor area renowned for high levels of knife crime and got offers of A A A for RG universities.

Abra1d Fri 22-Feb-13 12:29:05

'Comes as quite a shock when you are at a school where B is for bad and a cousin comments. "I were right good at Maths. I got a C"'

No shock to me: we have experience of this too.

I agree that levelling the playing field for disadvantaged children is only just and good sense! Good sense in that the country can't afford to waste talent.

My main concern is still with some schools 'getting away' with poor teaching and not nurturing talent. That seems unfair to schools and teachers who work hard: particularly in difficult circumstances.

Scrazy Fri 22-Feb-13 12:30:01

I doubt it is stopping your DC's getting in. If everyone is meeting their offers then I don't see the problem. Grades are only part of the application. It's a shame it isn't possible to interview all applicants to stop this sort of resentment.

scottishmummy Fri 22-Feb-13 12:30:21

Rg unis,Glasgow,Edinburgh certain courses v competitive overall but not that hard to get in
These threads turn into a yawnathon about who went where and if it's not English lit it's not naice degree

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 12:30:57

Ronaldo I do think there's a degree of truth that wealthy and successful people tend to be clever. Contrary to poular wisdom many top end jobs do require you to have a quick mind.

Indeed, all the boys in DS school are both highly intelligent (it is absurdly selective) and from wealthy backgrounds.

But that doesn't mean that the opposite is true. That poor people are of low ability. Obviously there will be a section of the poor that is low ability - they couldn't do work that required a quick mind. But there is also a section of the poor that is perfectly able but don't have the opportunities to leave poverty.

This was one of the original motivators for the G&T initiative; to keep tabs on DC with promise and see what became of them.

Tasmania Fri 22-Feb-13 12:31:23


I personally think that a lot of people associate RG unis with places like Oxbridge (obviously!), Durham, Bristol, Edinburgh etc. - and also including non-RG unis such as St. Andrews... which are very popular with what I would call NOT middle class but the upper middle class of society.

These places are harder to get into it seems, though I DO know that mature students will find it easier to get in than younger people... part of the whole diversity thing.

Copthallresident Fri 22-Feb-13 12:33:23

Oh Ronaldo You have convinced me. I will now go into uni and demand we stop all fair access programmes now and look on those undergraduates currently on courses as a result of those schemes as thickos , in spite of all the evidence I have seen to the contrary ..... I will also demand the mentoring charity I am involved in stop linking pupils from West Indian backgrounds to people from the same background who have succeeded in the city even though those pupils go on and get firsts, because they are obviously thick too, the pupils and the mentors.

Abra1d Fri 22-Feb-13 12:34:12

Scrazy was that aimed at me? I am not particularly resentful: my children have had a good education (and education is about more than university entrance) and I doubt they will be affected too badly in any case. I just think there could be unintended consequences of dropping grades.

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 12:35:50

Ronaldo I'm also afriad that DH and I both prove you wrong.

I am from the underclass and brought up in abject poverty. I went to Oxbridge and have earned a lot of money in various professions.

DH was a late starter. Thought a dullard by school and family. He has a double first and is now a senior partnerin a magic circle law firm. Hey ho.

morethanpotatoprints Fri 22-Feb-13 12:36:46

I meant to add I'm a bit dim here but what exactly is oxbridge.

People say they went to oxbridge, as they are naming a particular University. I also heard that oxbridge was either an Oxford or Cambridge college that was termed in this way so as not to identify a particular person.
Please can somebody explain to a dim person.

Abra1d Fri 22-Feb-13 12:39:14

It's like a kind of shorthand for 'Oxford and Cambridge'.

Abra1d Fri 22-Feb-13 12:39:25

Oxford and/or Cambridge, really.

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 12:39:44

Oh another late starter - DS. Forgot about him.

Went to primary unable to read or write. Very average for most of the early years. Now attends one of the most selctive schools in the country. Hey ho.

Scrazy Fri 22-Feb-13 12:39:59

No sorry it was aimed at Ronaldo, who doesn't believe in widening access to higher education.

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 12:41:45

People say Oxbridge to mean one or t'other.

They're seperate universities and you can't even apply to them both!

Scrazy Fri 22-Feb-13 12:42:36

Oh also forgot to add when mentioning late developers, many parents cannot afford to hothouse their little ones to prepare for the 11+ therefore bright children can end up at the local 'hell hole'.

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 12:42:59
Ronaldo Fri 22-Feb-13 12:43:16

Copthallr , I was a university lecturer for many years. I have never seen what you describe working out the way you say. What I often did find is that the successful ones had characteristics which were covered by the " deprivation" label. In fact scratch the surface and they werent! The others tended to drop out.

I could go on. If you want that level playing field it would be better to address the herd of elphants in the state education provision instead.

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 12:44:43

scrazy at the primary where I volunteered no one ver even applied to the nearest grammar. Never.

I cannot believe that not one child in all those years didn't have enough ability.

Scrazy Fri 22-Feb-13 12:45:25

Ronaldo, so in your experience the only students that did well were straight A students?

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 12:53:27

Ronaldo I do agree that it does sometimes seem as if the universities are being asked to sort out the deficiencies of the state system.

And I know that some of my colleagues (at Oxbridge) think that and are pissed off at endlessly being asked to 'make up the difference'.

They want the best students, but they don't want to have to teach them the basics when they arrive. They want them reasonably fully formed.
For this reason some incrediby bright students are turned away because the tutors just don't see that they'll be able to get up to scracth quickly enough or able to make the transition.

I teach at another establishment (much less glittering) and some of the students don't ahve evn basic essay writing skills.

MiaowTheCat Fri 22-Feb-13 12:54:35

Uni wasn't RG when I went there (I think it's only joined in the last couple of years) but has been mentioned previously in the thread as being one of the "usual" top ones and is now RG.

I went to an all-girl comp, then to the local 6th form college where they really weren't bothered about WHERE you went to as long as you went somewhere (in their partial defence - this was the last year of student grants so they were basically trying to avoid people doing retakes and losing out on that system) - offer for uni was the course standard one at the time of BBB.

Won't lie - I found some of the prejudice I came across being from a working class, northern background to be a very harsh lesson in life, and in reality I'd have had probably a more fun time, without the battles to be taken seriously and judged on my ability and not my accent or previous schooling, if I'd taken my second-choice offer up.

Ronaldo Fri 22-Feb-13 12:55:54

Averaging it out over the years, the majority of those who did well were indeed high performers at A level.

Of those we accepted who didnt fit this profile, we could clearly see the ability even if not always in final grades. Very few though.

Copthallresident Fri 22-Feb-13 12:56:47

word factory I've posted this before, but I think this is a good insight to the process and the issues www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/10/how-cambridge-admissions-really-work

Copthallresident Fri 22-Feb-13 13:02:19

MiaowTheCat I was middle class, went to a direct grant grammar and actually thought I was well spoken until I went south to uni, just the hint of the accent was enough to get that reaction. At work though I found it accessed me all sorts of useful stereotyping, you know, blunt, careful, honest, not to be messed with.................

creamteas Fri 22-Feb-13 13:16:52

To answer the question, some courses at at some RG universities are difficult to get into but many are not.

Most people don't know that RG doesn't necessarily mean teaching or research quality, the club was founded as a pressure group to lobby for the interests of big (but not necessarily better) universities.

There is no overall best university, it will depend on the subject, and other than the occasional claim on mn, no real evidence that going to an RG uni will set you up in life more than an non RG uni that is good in your degree subject

ronaldo in my experience of teaching at 3 different unis, it is not the school or background of the student that makes a difference, but their aptitude and attitude, and this does not easily correlated with their A level results.

Ronaldo Fri 22-Feb-13 13:30:05

And I know that some of my colleagues (at Oxbridge) think that and are pissed off at endlessly being asked to 'make up the difference'

They want the best students, but they don't want to have to teach them the basics when they arrive. They want them reasonably fully formed.
For this reason some incrediby bright students are turned away because the tutors just don't see that they'll be able to get up to scracth quickly enough or able to make the transition

Pretty well sums it up from a university position.

Whilst one can lead a less able student through a degree - or one that has deficiencies in teaching - its time consuming. Neither is it always good for the student to be palying catvch up with the brightest.

I see it as my job at A levbel to ensure I send applicants who are up to the task of a degree. However, too many teachers IME are no longer up to that task ikt seems.

NetworkGuy Fri 22-Feb-13 13:49:38

SM - "These threads turn into a yawnathon about who went where"

It's far from compulsory to participate, you know. Some might say it becomes a yawnathon if one had a chip on one's shoulder...

FWIW, I am glad I left school at 16, studied on, then quit a technical course (Navy related) and had a job when many of my peers from a good grammar school were less than half way through their second year away at uni.

I beat around 10 graduates to get my first job in programming, because none had appropriate experience (where I had spent time doing a free course and got hands on use). Sure, they achieved results in the courses they studied, but none was able to show much aptitude in computer programming (more the ability to do WP, if that). This was (fortunately) in the 70s when it was the case that few teenagers had exposure to computers (mini or mainframes were order of the day).

Did a day release course in the Polytechnic, which ended with my having an equivalent to a BSc in computing, but with perhaps more varied content, and real world examples under discussion, from different course members.

Personally, I'd not be looking at someone from an RG uni (or any uni) as an employee based on what they had achieved academically, but in work experience, or in willingness to start at the bottom (not as an intern, I don't believe in that kind of exploitation).

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 22-Feb-13 13:50:06

Word - that article though, and the league table derived from Gove's little list, is highly misleading, since some academic subjects which are accepted by RG universities (and Oxbridge) are ignored.

higgle Fri 22-Feb-13 13:50:07

DS1 did PPE at Oxford, he had an A at A level in maths ( pre A* days) and had always been good at the subject ( and he had had a job writing sample maths exam questions at GCSE and A level for an on line tutor site) He found the maths he had to do as part of the economics section of his course very very difficult indeed- but there was not much support, they were supposed to be showing not only the best of A level knowledge but how to improve on their own. He did cope, but was very worried. I'm not sure this would have been possible for someone less well versed in the subject if the university was supposed to help them as it seems to be against their ethos.

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 13:53:52

Russians yes.

Ponders Fri 22-Feb-13 13:59:33

He found the maths he had to do as part of the economics section of his course very very difficult indeed

DS2 applied for PPE, higgle, & he wasn't even doing Maths A Level! He had been told that Maths was essential for the Economics bit, but I didn't realise it was that tough

Good job they turned him down grin

higgle Fri 22-Feb-13 14:06:16

He has a very strange brain, was about 16 before he could even work out how to use a cheese grater properly, so it might just have been him. Like most of his friends he dropped the economics bit at the end of the first year.

GrowSomeCress Fri 22-Feb-13 14:47:06

I know a fair few people with offers from RG universities who I don't think are very bright at all

Tasmania Fri 22-Feb-13 14:51:13

It's the econometrics part of economics, I guess. I didn't do high level Maths (not to British A-levels standards), but I think when you have a natural ability, it's OK. At middle school I did certain calculations a certain way simply because I believed it was a logical thing to do. I thought nothing of it, until the teacher took notice and told the class what I did... apparently, what I was doing was based on a proper theorem or something that even has a name attached to it - which I don't remember - but to me, it just seemed a natural thing to do.

Similarly, when I was doing econometrics at uni, there were a lot of exercises that former AAA students (Maths was compulsory for British students) could not solve in tutorials. I could. Without doing as much work as them either (I regret having been a bit on the lazy side at uni)! I wasn't spoon-fed the info of how to calculate the stuff, I just "felt" it was the right thing to do...

That said, unlike DH, I didn't really like Maths and Sciences at school, which is the reason I didn't choose any of them as my "major" subjects at school (not UK). DH thinks it's a bit of a shame... but oh well.

Abra1d Fri 22-Feb-13 15:02:31

Frankly, back in my day (eighties) there were a lot of rather Sloaney people who went to certain RG universities who weren't the sharpest knives in the drawer. Tim nice but Dim types. They then went into the City. This was pre-Big Bang and a lot was done on knowing the right people/going to the right school/regiment. The collapse of Lloyds and then the arrival of the big US and other foreign investment banks and all the deregulation put a stop to that.

Although, my FIL still claims there was less fraud and bank scandal then because although some of them were a bit dim, they were honest. grin They probably couldn't get up to as much before trading was done electronically.

AuntySib Fri 22-Feb-13 15:12:00

They are accessible to anyone with good enough grades. AAB is certainly a possiblility - based on my son's experience 2 years ago.
Personal statement needs to be strong in that it should reflect candidate's interest in the subject and demonstrate ability to succeed on the course - I was surprised that they weren't interested in work experience ( unless hugely relevant) other interests and hobbies etc. Good reference from school obviously essential. It also depends on the course - the more over-subscribed courses will be more stringent in their requirements.

badguider Fri 22-Feb-13 15:48:58

What I don't understand is why SO MANY young people are desperate to study English and History at RG Universities... I mean, English and History are not the most exciting subjects in the world, I understand that some young people might be passionate about them but I just cannot see why they are THAT much more popular than other subjects.
If you REALLy want to get into 'any RG University' for it's RG-status, then why choose one of the two most popular subjects. Why not choose something less popular and then look at exactly which University is best for that subject and then whether you can meet their entrance requirements.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 22-Feb-13 15:56:10

I can't think of many subjects that would be more interesting than English and History actually.

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 16:11:52

Me either russians.

And I do think that students who study those subjects at good universities have a good chance of getting employemnt in all manner of fields - from banking, to the law, from publishing to the diplomatic service.

Employers like history/english grads.

Tasmania Fri 22-Feb-13 16:15:44

English and History are actually good subjects to study. Much better than loads of mickey-mouse subjects. You need quite a lot of ability to digest material and analyze them in those subjects. Not just learning formulas and applying them.

History is more biased towards public school peeps, but that might be because it's hard not to be interested in it when you're walking down the same halls as the greats.

higgle Fri 22-Feb-13 16:25:42

English and history would have ben a dream come true for me. I did Law ( many years ago) because my parents would only support me if I did a subject that led to a job.

Yellowtip Fri 22-Feb-13 16:53:14

History is not more biased towards public schoolers Tas. Why do you say that?

tiggytape Fri 22-Feb-13 17:37:56

History and English are hugely popular. Not only do they appeal to many children (not just public school children at all) but they have real value.
The ability to be able read vast quantities of information, form an objective judgement on it and produce a report (essay) based on that judgement in a 14 day turnaround is a pretty valuable life skill.
The fact the material you are reading and digesting is also compelling and interesting of course adds to it too.

(not that I am biased wink)

Copthallresident Fri 22-Feb-13 18:26:47

Do I detect other History and English graduates wink

Totally agree, and it isn't just the relevant skills you develop, the reason I am back at uni was that I went and worked in another culture and not having that in depth knowledge and understanding of it's culture and where it was coming from felt like working with one hand behind my back. Studying it after three years living there was like a road to Damascus, suddenly everything came together and made sense. Vital skills and understanding, not just in business, but government too. Shame Gove only heard the story, and wants our children to only hear the story, instead of the substance angry

Copthallresident Fri 22-Feb-13 18:28:21

sorry iPad seems to be goveist, understanding the substance................

Tasmania Fri 22-Feb-13 18:32:12

Yellowtip Just personal experience of people I know who have studied the subject, but each uni may be different.

pollypandemonium Fri 22-Feb-13 18:39:55

That's interesting Copthallresident. I think students now are better equipped because the national curriculum covers most of the bases that need to be covered so nobody will go out and feel inadquate - every child knows who Picasso was, everyone knows about the Victorians and they will all have read some Shakespeare. Citizenship courses are also very useful for general understanding about the world.

I personally don't believe that there has been grade inflation, I think that children learn far more quickly nowadays because of the tools they have.

For example, learning about fold mountains and oxbow lakes is quite easy in a utube video, however reading about it in a book with a black and white diagram, watching a teacher wave his arms about shouting and pointing takes so much longer.

Look at the history and nature programmes on TV - you can pick up so much from what is around you unlike in the 'good' old days where you had to read several pages of dusty text and use your imagination.

Analysis is the thing that takes longer to learn but I think they do that pretty well in schools now. I wish they would teach children how to fix leaky taps and grow potatoes, it would be far more useful.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 22-Feb-13 19:09:31

Copthall nope. grin

How can you find out which subjects are good options for having more of a chance of getting into a good University ? (Just as part of what you might want to consider) I've heard Latin and Classics is good for Oxbridge as lots of old scholarships and less competition, but other than that I've little idea of which subjects are more/less competitive. Except obviously lots of people competing for vet and medicine places, and law slightly less but still tough.

Any thoughts ?

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 19:38:08

Law graduate here grin...didn't even do an O level in History...but huge interest in it as an adult!

polly I thuik there has been some grade inflation. The modular system (with retakes of descrete modules encouraged) has enabled more students to reach higher grades.

But even then, I don't think GCSEs are the piece of piss some like to make them out to be.

wordfactory Fri 22-Feb-13 19:40:00

juggling there is a list floating around somehwere of facilitating subjects. I'll see if I can find a link.

Thanks wordfactory smile

Like you I've been getting more and more interested in history (now that I've lived through more of it ?!) Was probably put off at O level by the thought of studying the wars - even then was a bit of a pacifist - Testament of Youth was my era (TV wise)

We have DS(11) earmarked for law as has always been thoughtful, analytical, and incredibly pedantic - do you think that's the right skill set ? wink

Yellowtip Fri 22-Feb-13 22:46:06

Juggling there are enough lawyers out there. Isn't 11 is a bit young to consign anyone to anything though? Latin was a Classic in my day....If you really want to be in with a shout, apply for Classics and English smile

goingmadinthecountry Fri 22-Feb-13 23:20:02

I can assure you that my children did more for GCSEs/A levels than I did. Not really sure how I got my AAB back in the early 80s - luck more than hard work I think. Dd1 got 3 A* and and A this year and she certainly put the work in. Even then, she didn't think she was up for applying to Oxbridge due to one bad AS result. Whatever. She's happy where she is and may well choose to go PG as I did.

I do think there's a huge gap between exam boards though. Am very anti-Gove but on this one he has a point. It's always been the same way - I was a moderator for a few years.

wordfactory Sat 23-Feb-13 08:00:52

juggling I'd say they were traits that might stand someone in good stead for parts of the law.

Thing is, there are lots of different avenues in the law and each require different skill sets. Law firms have a mix.

And the good thing about law is that there is always demand for new blood. A bit like publishing grin.

wordfactory Sat 23-Feb-13 08:05:48
wordfactory Sat 23-Feb-13 08:11:37

Piece by Janice Turner for anyone interested. www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/magazine/article3670659.ece

For me, being from her neck of the woods to boot, it chimed so well. Too well.

wordfactory Sat 23-Feb-13 08:14:34

Sorry Janice Turner link posted on wrong thread. Doh.

mrz Sat 23-Feb-13 08:29:31

Can't be that hard I was offered a place grin

Thanks wordfactory - the "informed choices" document from the Russell Group was very interesting and informative - especially about which subjects are helpful or occasionally required for which courses. smile

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