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More students from state schools admitted to Cambridge

(39 Posts)
savoirfaire Fri 31-May-13 23:07:16

[[ here]

Haven't seen anyone else posted on this yet. This seems like an incredibly leap forward to me - I'm seriously impressed. Shows the access agreement has had an impact IMO (I say this as a privately educated oxbridge-ite). Interested in others' views.

savoirfaire Fri 31-May-13 23:07:30


alreadytaken Sat 01-Jun-13 08:18:42

hopefully this link will work

Cambridge is elitist - it picks those who go on to get several A* grades. It is more successful in doing so than Oxford. If it can maintain those standards - and it seems to be doing so - while admitting more state school and disadvantaged pupils then it is excellent news.

creamteas Sat 01-Jun-13 10:32:15

Personally I think the time to celebrate will be when the % admitted from private schools drops is the same as the proportion at private schools.....

They might be moving in the right direction, but are so far off it is not that significant.

alreadytaken Sat 01-Jun-13 16:22:15

almost a 5% improvement, I'd see that as significant. As long as the percentage of pupils achieving top grades is higher in public schools than in state schools there are likely to be imbalances in all leading universities.

Needmoresleep Sun 02-Jun-13 19:45:50

The problem with using a simple statistic like this is that it does not show what is going on behind. The idea of helping ensure that talented kids from all backgrounds get places at Universities which will enable them to fully develop their potential is a good one. However a subject by subject breakdown would be interesting.

When we were looking round academic London indie day schools one Head said confidently that he was not worried about an anti-private school bias because without private schools, and presumably grammar schools, some University science and language departments would struggle to survive. A Governor of another school told me that they were investing in their science facilities because it was much easier for a private school to get a good child into a good university reading science that it was arts, humanities or social science. Subjects state schools tended to do well.

It would be interesting to see whether the "improvement" is across the board, or primarily in non-language, non-science subjects. One implication if it is, will be the increasing pull of American Liberal Arts Colleges. Already about 10% in my sons school head for the states, several making the decision after failing to get an Oxbridge place. (No surprise that it is UCL and Kings who are now offering their own version of Liberal Arts degrees.) Another well known London school is apparently telling their students to forget about Russell group for arts and humanities and to look at European alternatives instead.

A second consequence seems to be the rising numbers of private school pupils going to London colleges. In my day, when Oxbridge entry was more complicated, good students from non traditional backgrounds went to LSE. Public schooled Oxbridge rejects went to leafy trad places like Bristol and Durham. Colleges like LSE, UCL and Imperial offer strong academic competition to Oxbridge, though without the university experience. It is cheaper for Londoners to stay in London, and London has a higher percentage of its population in the private system, and more than its share of good private schools. However I am not sure if it is healthy, given the insularity of the city, to encourage London kids to stay in London.

The Cambridge approach is the right one if they really are identifying the kids who will benefit most from a Cambridge education. If however it is a political move with bias against applicants from specific backgrounds there will be consequences. Education is now an international market place. There is real "competition" to the traditional format from new media. There is scope to study abroad, and indeed with the current pricing structure European institutions provide an attractive offer. Many employers are international and will not see things from a traditionally British perspective. To stay at the top of the rankings, Cambridge needs to seek out the best candidates. Great if this is the consequence of their outreach. Not if outreach is simply so they can boast of the % of state school pupils they take.

(Sorry about the rant but the simplicity of the boast irritated me. Surely Cambridge, of all people, can delve beyond headline figures to deliver what should be the real aim, which is to identify the kids who will benefit most from their education.)

savoirfaire Sun 02-Jun-13 20:45:39

alreadytaken thanks for sorting out the link

needmoresleep good post - very considered and lots of interesting things in there. You're right, a breakdown would be fascinating.

Clearly it's early days - one swallow is not a summer etc.

Yellowtip Sun 02-Jun-13 22:40:48

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Needmoresleep Mon 03-Jun-13 08:19:44

Yeah, and thanks.

I am not sure it was a particularly well structured argumment. I had meant to develop the point about private schools often teaching science and languages better.

My son is in lower sixth and interested in social sciences. "Newer" Universities, well they were in my day but now are slightly crumbling sixties campuses, have interesting programmes with a vast array of options. Several appear very high in the subject specific league tables. At trad Universities you walk past large languages and science departments before finding the social science block hidden away like some after thought. (OK an exaggeration, but the balance is different.) If the trad Universities are to fill their science and language programmes they may need to recruit heavily from the privates, grammars, and the comps in leafy suburbs. Or work very hard on outreach and integration programmes that allow kids without the normal qualifications, eg without an A level in a language, to catch up.

(I was shocked over the weekend to read, as part of an article about student debt and the hours of teaching offered by Universities, about a boy taking a degree in classics, starting both Latin and Greek from scratch, who only expected to reach A level standard by the end. It would be cheaper to pay for two years in an independent school sixth forms, or for a year at a tutorial college.)

The alternative is that get knocked for taking "too many" private school kids.

I, as an interested party, really hope that such universities are not then tempted to "improve" their state school ratios by preferring state school applicants in arts/humanities/social science over candidates with equal potential from elsewhere. If the fundamental problem is a failure of a number of schools within the state sector to teach science and languages well and to encourage talented pupils to take these subjects, the solution cannot be to apply prejudice. Looking at a headline figure simply hides the problem and runs the risk of weakening the University's academic standing. At a time when the competition from new or overseas providers of tertiary education is strengthening, and "consumers" are becoming increasingly value conscious.

By chance we were able to talk to an admissions tutor at one modern campus. He did a good job at selling the advantages of his course, which was forward looking and employment orientated. He was clearly interested in the fact that my son is taking double maths, and implied this would really help his application, and as importantly, his ability to thrive on a fairly rigorous course. The fact is that sixty in my son's year are taking double maths. I suspect that few, much larger, state sixth forms can boast of similar numbers.

Another point I might have developed is the resulting pressure on London colleges. Cost and the sheer size of the city puts off many, otherwise strong, candidates from elsewhere in Britain. Conversely many good academics are attracted by the international reputation of various colleges, and the scope for engaging in non-academic spheres. If places of similar status (depends on subject, but I am thinking Oxbridge, Warwick, Bristol, Durham etc) are pushing to increase their proportion of students from state schools, London becomes the obvious place for private school kids to apply. Lets face it University, even with increased fees, is cheaper than paying for school, especially if DC can live at home. A very small sample, but I suspect both my DC will end up studying in the capital. Looking at their school destination Universities they will be far from alone, which means that socially tertiary education might simply becomes an sort of extended sixth form. They would prefer to get away from home. We would prefer it too. More generally I don't think it is healthy to have a mix of politics and economics that discourages talented young Londoners from getting beyond the M25. (Actually in our case beyond congestion charging.....)

Congrats to anyone who has read through to the end. It would be interesting to have the subject breakdown of the Cambridge stats, and a breakdown which has grammars and high performing comps in leafy suburbs linked with private schools. I may be talking absolute rubbish....

wordfactory Mon 03-Jun-13 08:45:27

needmoresleep you make some very interesting points that perfectly highlight the difficult balance between widening access to the most selective universities, whilst protecting academic excellence.

Most of the tutors I know are pretty committed to widening access, but can get a bit on edge about movement from independent schools towards the London universities, America et al.

alreadytaken Mon 03-Jun-13 09:21:07

no I don't think you're talking rubbish, needmoresleep, except when you talk about a simple boast. There was no boast, that is what others choose to read into statements of fact. I'd also question the comment about London universities not providing the university experience. It's a different experience but students are not obliged to live at home. They may not get university halls in the first year but there are private halls and shared houses. It's a different experience because of the distance some students travel and the high percentage of overseas students. That can be both positive and negative, it's not only Londoners who are insular.

London is now so expensive a place to live that there is a risk that some students will be deterred by cost and London universities will attract by income not ability. I would suggest that Oxbridge has too often selected by income not ability in the past.

It's also quite possible that the increased percentage of state pupils is an increase from grammar schools only. This year's figures are here I don't think I kept last years figures to compare, they may still be on the web somewhere. There may be a subject breakdown, I haven't yet looked.

Yellowtip I normally prefer to ignore your misconceptions but I was not disappointed with Oxford. My DC looked at Oxford, Cambridge and most other medical schools before deciding where to apply. They were initially doubtful about either Oxford or Cambridge because of the delay in starting clinical experience but decided to try Cambridge because it interviews almost everyone. There was no guarantee of an interview at most other medical schools. We knew of one or two very strange decisions by Oxford on who to interview for medicine and have become aware of another this year.

I am interested in how Oxford do because their good bursaries mean they should be doing better than Cambridge. Unlike you I am not blinded by bias towards one university. If my DC makes their grades and gets in I shall continue to say that Oxford is a better choice for some applicants and I will have continue to have concerns about the type of graduate that both universities turn out.

IKnowWhat Mon 03-Jun-13 09:28:17

I went to a course specific taster day at Oxford. My local comp educated DS wasn't going to apply but he thought it would be interesting and useful to go. It was really interesting and extremely welcoming. They made it perfectly clear that ALL they cared about was whether you had the potential of doing well on the course. They said, in so many words, that they didnt care about extra curricular stuff other than showing an interest in the course.
Nothing they did made me or my son feel that he would be at any disadvantage by coming from a state school.

Yellowtip Mon 03-Jun-13 09:34:03

I asked for that post to be deleted alreadytaken since I subsequently realised it must be one of your older DC who interviewed at Oxford in 2011, sorry. I'm sure MN will delete it soon smile

This is slightly off the topic of access but Oxford does interview far less applicants generally. As far as offers for Medicine go these are based on a mathematical formula combining percentage of A* at GCSE, contextualised and the BMAT score. They interview very few compared to applications, that's certainly true.

alreadytaken I have no bias towards any particular university at all though I do have a bias towards good ones, of which there are obviously several.

alreadytaken Tue 04-Jun-13 20:19:18

needmoresleep I had a more detailed look at the admission statistics. The number of applications from the independent sector was down at Cambridge last year. It wasn't a massive reduction and applications from the state sector were up. There could, of course, be a number of reasons for that including concern about the increasingly high offers or about the attempts to include more state school pupils. Oxford applications seem to have stayed much the same so no real sign of an exodus of private school applicants from Oxbridge. Oxford doesn't seem to be improving its percentage of state applicants. As they used to say about state schools if pupils don't apply they can't make them an offer.

if your son likes the look of the courses at Cambridge don't let the comments about culling students put you off. Cambridge seems to be rather good at selecting those who go on to exceed their offers. The published statistics show that not everyone accepts their offers, so a degree of self-selection is probably taking place. With the disappearance of January module exams it is going to take a higher degree of confidence to firm the more demanding offers. I suspect that confidence may be seen more often in privately educated young people.

For social service degrees an American course might look quite appealing but that's one of many areas I know little about smile

sillyoldfool Tue 04-Jun-13 20:35:23

I find these articles impossible to take at face value. I went to a state sixth form college which easily outperformed the private sixth form departments in the area. Most of the students were privately educated from 7-16 then went to the (very selective) state sixth form for a levels. At the time around 10% of 'state' students at oxford and cambridge came from this one sixth form. So 10% of the 'state' students actually spent the majority of their education in the private sector.
I would be surprised if that sixth form were the only example of this.

Yellowtip Tue 04-Jun-13 22:19:06

Hills Road?

wordfactory Wed 05-Jun-13 08:00:20

silly when I first became involved in the widening access prog, a colleague made it clear that he would not consider it much progress if the university simply swapped students from St Pauls to students from Tiffins.

I have some sympathy with his view!

That said, a lot of work is being done to really widen access. To get out to those places where students don't even consider applying. But it's going to take time!

Needmoresleep Wed 05-Jun-13 09:00:37

Thanks alreadytaken.

My overlong posts were effectively based on DSs decision making process. His area of interest (social science, not social service..) is well served by Cambridge, but equally by London and another of the bigger name RG. All quite competitive. At the same time some of the newer Universities offer really interesting courses.

In his case Cambridge would suit best. It is out of London, a great course and, obviously, is well known by employers. Its up to them but he might suit Cambridge as he is ferociously interested in his subject and well read around it. However the grade requirements to get to interview are tough. (There ought not be a problem about achieving offer grades, its just the percentages within AS.)

It would be a pity if he does not get in, but one of the other two Universities should take him, and if not he can go to one of his fall-back options. Many of his friends will be in the same position. Other friends, particularly those in the sciences, will chose London over Oxbridge automatically. Others are applying to the States as well as Oxbridge/London. Other similar schools are pushing good students towards Europe. We know one bright girl this year who has decided on St Andrews, fearful that Oxford will simply be a continuation of her very academic day school. She wants a break and a chance to step away from the pressure.

In short its not Oxbridge or bust for a good student, even if MN discussions or newspaper headlines seem to think so. Particularly for the more affluent, or more international. Simplistic headline figures suggest a bias, and this in the longer term has the potential to be damaging both to the Universities and to British higher education as an important foreign revenue earning product.

I would add though that last year my son was aware of several very disappointed Cambridge applicants, whilst Oxford applications seem to have been more predictable. Enough for him to briefly ponder whether he should set his sights for Oxford instead, to then realise that his interest was to get into the best course he could, and that London would then be better.

UptheChimney Wed 05-Jun-13 09:27:43

Personally I think the time to celebrate will be when the % admitted from private schools drops is the same as the proportion at private schools

Exactly. It's the comparison of percentages, not the actual numbers that count.

But what really irritates me is that hard-pressed universities are expected to make up for the previous 18 years of socio-economic dis/advantage. Divisions in attainment between the advantaged and the not, start at about the age of 3, apparently.

sillyoldfool Wed 05-Jun-13 09:30:26

Yep hills road (which I loathed my time at btw, and my unhappiness caused me to seriously under perform at a level-I have all A/A* at GCSE, a first class degree, and a B and 3 Cs at a level! Pushy schools don't bring out the best in everyone)
Anyway, try ran extra classes for Oxbridge applicants, and automatically upped estimated grades for them so they'd get interviews.
A lot of energy went into getting people to Oxbridge, it was a bit mad.

wordfactory Wed 05-Jun-13 09:36:02

upthechimney I'm not convinced that the numbers at Oxbridge will ever completely reflect the national stats.

To be honest, many independent schools are highly selective, whereas many state schools are not. The percentage of students with the requisite ability for Oxbridge will be much greater in a highly selective school.

Also, many young people from lower socio economic backgrounds simply do not wish to study somehwere like Oxbridge. It just doesn't appeal.

That said, I completely agree with you that it is extremely annoying that the universities are being asked to somehow redress all this! It is particularly concerning that they are being put under pressure to accept students who are less likely to thrive, because they have not received an adequate education to date!

UptheChimney Wed 05-Jun-13 09:57:42

And then universities are judged on student satisfaction, achievement, retention, etc etc etc.

Best thing would be to get rid of fee-paying schools. Make schools local and all excellent.

[ retires behind riot shield ]

Slipshodsibyl Wed 05-Jun-13 10:01:56

I am currently living in a country without private schools (the tiny few there are not considered desirable). It is a very different experience!

mummytime Wed 05-Jun-13 10:11:09

How do you make all schools excellent? How do you make anything all excellent?

Nevermind excellent for your child could be failing mine.

I am also all for choice, I don't want to be told which school I have to send my child to, or even that I have to send them to school.

Even if there were no fee paying schools in this country, I could still HE (using Tutors if I had enough money), or send my children overseas to school (if I could afford it).

Actually Oxford points out that quite a large percentage of its pupils from private schools have been there on bursaries (a lot from ex-free school meals families). Which kind of makes sense, if it only wants the brightest, and only the brightest get bursaries to fee-paying schools.

LittleFrieda Wed 05-Jun-13 10:11:11

It would be much more interesting if universities published their state:independent admissions statistics expressed as a percentage of pupils who are predicted/achieved AAA or better at A level.

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