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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.

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.

JugglingFromHereToThere Thu 21-Feb-13 16:09:54

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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?

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