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Oxbridge 'favours' students from London and South-East

(488 Posts)
jeanne16 Sat 21-Oct-17 08:21:06

Apparently 48% of students come from London and the South-East with Richmond being a particular hotspot. Should we be surprised by this and accuse the universities of bias? The way I see it is Richmond is full of extremely intelligent people who presumably have intelligent children. They then have the money and resources to support them in all sorts of ways, such as buying books, reading to them, private schooling and/or tutors when needed, sport and other activities.

I really don't see how this is the fault of the universities.

cathyandclare Sat 21-Oct-17 09:57:27

We're northern and I do think there is a problem with people actually applying for Oxbridge. DD went to one of the most academic schools in the area, but in the Oxbridge talk ( I was lurking at the back because I had to pick her up for an appt and it was running late) they seemed to spend their whole time telling potential applicants with bucketloads of A stars that they weren't clever enough and weren't worthy.

It was incredibly negative and it put DD and many of her peers off. DH (also northern, went to Oxford in the 80s) said that the tutor was talking rubbish, that Oxford and Cambridge are full of normal people and it's only one place on your UCAS, so she went for it. Much to her surprise she got in.

She has found it very welcoming and inclusive but there are more southerners/Londoners and fewer BME students than she'd expect. I think the colleges are working hard to redress the balance but they can only admit people that apply. The schools need to stop thinking that Oxbridge students are other-worldly, or that only all-round superstar head girl and boy types are welcome, and start encouraging more pupils to give it a go.

BubblesBuddy Sat 21-Oct-17 10:03:47

I have mixed views about this and it really comes down to aspiration. I have relatives in the North and they would not want to go to Oxford or Cambridge. Several DC should be trying, but they won't. They are rigidly "Northern" about everything they do and that includes university. You can also see it in other areas where DC prefer to stay local. I think it is a continuation of parental beliefs and schools should do more to counter it. They do very little at the moment and don't challenge the students to think big. They often say "X university is just as good" when the world and his wife knows it's not. Schools link with local universities and the universities give bursaries to local students, or lower entrance grades. So some students don't look elsewhere.

Additionally, I have a big problem with the lack of "working class" DC at Oxbridge too. There are difficulties with the working class element vs middle class. Many working class people of 30-60 years ago are no longer working class. They have had a good education and now have middle class jobs. Many have been to university. My DH came, originally, from a family of strawplaiters and farm labourers. Over the last century people have moved on from humble beginnings. Especially since the tripartite system was introduced post 1945. I think there is a huge myth about the working class now being super intelligent in large numbers. The nuggets need nurturing and identifying early and should not be let down but Educating Manchester shows there are still great difficulties for intelligent children in bog standard schools.

Ofsted constantly say schools in the North and Midlands are not as good as elsewhere. This stat probably backs that up. We also know that children who lack confidence are not likely to do as well at interview. I gather Oxford now do an access course and has 10 students on it. (TV last night). That's probably the only way unless the "not for the likes of me" attitude can be stopped but that's a big ask!

We also know there are great areas of wealth and ambition in the SE and London. I do think there is weakth in the North but too few have the ambition to go to Oxbridge because it's like joining the South and losing your heritage.

BubblesBuddy Sat 21-Oct-17 10:07:26

Cathy - I think what you say is correct. It's put out of reach by people who should know better! Your DD had the opportunity to counter the negativity but others didn't have that advantage. How can this be countered? Should Oxbridge to into these schools?

Ktown Sat 21-Oct-17 10:10:08

I am starting to think a lot of these class barriers and restrictions in certain roles are due to accent and not class.
RP seems to open more doors than education or class do.
I wonder if it is because that is what you hear on tv.
I see it at work and elsewhere. Some companies are more likely to employ someone with a foreign accent than a regional one.

cathyandclare Sat 21-Oct-17 10:12:09

I have a friend, middle-class ex-oxbridge, super-supportive and brilliant parent and her kids are eligible for one of those courses due to their location. It's great for them and I'm sure they would do very well at Oxford, but I can't help but feel that it's not what the access programme was designed for.

Tealdeal747 Sat 21-Oct-17 10:14:41

The stat that is important isn’t the number that apply or go but what the comparable ratio of applications to offers is.

If 1 in 2 Richmond students get offers but only 1 in 5 of Manchester students then the problem is discrimination on the part of these unis.

2014newme Sat 21-Oct-17 10:18:36

The news that some colleges have had no black students in 6 years is more shocking

AccrualIntentions Sat 21-Oct-17 10:18:40

I was at a northern comprehensive school and a small group of us were taken to visit an Oxford college as part of an initiative to try to attract more northern, state school applicants.

It was really patronising and offputting and probably succeeded in discouraging some of us who otherwise would have applied. Lots of "there's a place for people like you too!" type stuff, said to girls whose mums and dads were doctors and dentists and the like but who just happened to live North of Watford gap and not speak with RP accents. It had never really occurred to me that the people at Oxbridge would think of me as different/other/not posh enough until they made it really clear that they did. I can't imagine how badly it would have come across to potential students who actually were from deprived backgrounds.

Hopefully their outreach marketing has improved since then.

Dumbledore345 Sat 21-Oct-17 10:58:01

@2014 newme

I think that many colleges have not accepted any black BRITISH students for years. And I see that as a reflection of the lack of achievement of black British students in the state educational system. That goes well beyond bias in the Oxbridge selection system. How many black British students got 3As at A level or anything approaching that? Interventions need to start much earlier than Oxbridge selection - ideally at primary school if these students are to achieve their potential.

DN went to school with a number of high achieving black overseas students a number of whom went on to Oxbridge. As one of them observed, there is something profoundly ironic about the children of Nigerian oil magnates educated in UK public schools being seen as symbols of a deprived demographic.

On the Northern question, I think many families with high achieving children would choose Manchester, Durham, York or Leeds because it is so much cheaper to live in those cities. And perhaps they do not so easily buy in to the notion that an Oxbridge education is of so much greater value.

Ifailed Sat 21-Oct-17 11:08:28

According to the Head of Communications for Undergraduate Admissions at Oxford, they seek to attract the best and brightest applicants. Given the recent statistics, clearly they believe the best and brightest applicants live in Richmond, attend private school and are white, otherwise their admission process must be failing?

CoolCarrie Sat 21-Oct-17 11:08:52

Our ndn's oldest daughter got into Oxbridge, she worked very hard, and got there on her own merits. She doesn't come from a wealthy family at all, she is from Namibia, one of the poorest countries in the world, her family are very proud of her and remortgaged their house to help her.

Melony6 Sat 21-Oct-17 11:20:06

People pay a fortune for private education or to live in a catchment for a good school. Why is this? Imv better education, huge confidence and articulate speech, to pretend that bright DCs from a big standard comp are on a level playing field is daft.

daisypond Sat 21-Oct-17 11:31:32

"extremely intelligent people who presumably have intelligent children. They then have the money and resources to support them "

Intelligence and money are not directly related. Some of the most intelligent people I know are not very well off at all - (earn less than national average) including some who went to Oxford/Cambridge.

MistressDeeCee Sat 21-Oct-17 11:50:11

I think snobbery has a lot to do with it. So there's this line put out that BME don't apply (oh yes they do - I have a young relative at Oxford now also know several who've applied over the years and didn't get in despite excellent grades), and that Northeners are so very entrenched in Northern-ism (it's a different species down there you know) that they wouldn't possibly want to come down south and mix with plummy Southerners. Stereotypes are trotted out and widely believed (as is wont with any line peddled enough) all to mask the fact that status and money rules. We all know it, no matter how many round the houses words are written on it

Gasp0deTheW0nderD0g Sat 21-Oct-17 11:55:05

This is a very complex issue. I don't discount the idea that there is bias in the admissions process, but there are a lot of factors that are not within the control of the universities.

1. Many people from an ethnic minority group prefer to study somewhere which already has a good representation from their community. This might make it easier for them to worship and to have a good social life that doesn't involve alcohol, for example.

2. It is, I believe, an established fact that bright children from many ethnic minorities are steered by their families towards vocational degree subjects. Those are amongst the most competitive to get into at Oxford and Cambridge (as elsewhere), and the chance of getting an offer is not high (for anybody). If BME students applied for Theology or obscure languages they would stand a much greater chance of getting an offer (as would any Oxbridge applicant).

3. Students from poorer backgrounds are less likely to want to leave home to study. It's cheaper to stay at home and carry on with a part-time job.

4. I don't think there's a problem of lack of aspiration in most BME communities. My experience of living in Inner London and having children go through local schools is that BME families tend to be very ambitious for their children. It's the white low-income families who are stuck in the mindset that education doesn't matter, or who see that it does but don't know how to support their children.

5. It annoys me that universities are expected to sort out these problems as if they are the cause of them. It's far too late by the time a student is 18 to remedy a poor education. Even primary schools struggle to make up for a poor start in life caused by having parents who don't speak to their children, don't read to them, don't teach them basic social and other skills. What chance do the universities have if a student turns up who is clearly very bright but has huge gaps in their knowledge caused from having very poor teaching over many years and nobody at home supporting the student in self-study?

Melony6 Sat 21-Oct-17 14:05:08

Imv until problems with behaviour and aspiration in bog standard schools is addressed— probably never as it would cost too much— and classes are not disrupted and teaching then made too difficult, there will not be a major sea change. Some not in the Home Counties will rise to the top but not enough to greatly improve the stats.

BakedBeans47 Sat 21-Oct-17 14:07:26

Richmond is full of extremely intelligent people who presumably have intelligent children

You are BU to make the assumption that this place has more intelligent people than anywhere else. Do you need to pass an IQ test to get to live there? I suspect you are may be confusing “having money” with intelligence.

BakedBeans47 Sat 21-Oct-17 14:07:59

You may be not you are may be

mateysmum Sat 21-Oct-17 14:32:34

Here is the text from a Telegraph article (paywalled) which I think gives a very good analysis of the data. There were some graphs as well but too hard to copy and paste. It shows that you need to look behind the headlines to see what is really going on. It's too easy to cry of "bias" or "racism" . Schools need to encourage poorer and BME students too apply. Too often it's "oh it's not for the likes of us". Images of Oxbridge are still rooted in Brideshead revisted - nearly 100 years out of date.

"David Lammy, Labour MP, has obtained data supposedly showing that the universities of Oxford and Cambridge are still poor at accepting students from ethnic minorities and less privileged backgrounds.
The figures show that just 1.5 per cent of offers go to black British applicants while 80 per cent of offers go to the most privileged students, whose parents are employed in professional occupations or managerial roles.
On the face of it, this looks pretty bad for Oxbridge, but it would be wrong to lay the blame completely at the door of these universities.
Further analysis of David Lammy's data shows that Oxbridge's diversity issues start further back along the education pipeline.
Black students do poorly at A-level
The figure of 1.5 per cent of offers going to black applicants seems extremely low given that three per cent of the population identifies as black British according to the 2011 census.
In a completely fair world, the theory goes, this would mean three per cent of Oxbridge offers would go to black students.
However, this assumes that the number of black students achieving the entry criteria would be proportional to students from other ethnic groups when it isn't.
Figures from the Department for Education show that just five per cent of black students achieved at least three A grade A-level results in 2016 - comfortably the worst conversion rate for any ethnic group.In 2015 just 459 black British students got three As or better, meaning that - where ethnicity is known - black students accounted for 2.2 per cent of the students who gained A-level grades of this standard.
A report by UCAS from August 2016 found that black students were the most likely to miss out on their predicted grades, compared to students from other ethnic groups:
"Large differences in the proportion of applicants missing their predicted attainment exist between ethnic groups throughout the period.
"Applicants from the White ethnic group were least likely to miss by two or more grades, ranging from 38.0 per cent in 2010 to 50.6 per cent in 2015.
"In comparison, applicants from the Black ethnic group were the most likely to miss their predicted attainment, increasing from 53.3 per cent in 2010 to 67.5 per cent in 2015."
This reduced pool of potential applicants greatly reduces the number of people who would be considered eligible to apply for Oxbridge courses.You can't accept people who don't apply
Of course, 1.5 per cent representation at Oxbridge is still poor in comparison to the 2.2 per cent of black students achieving three As at A-level.
Crucially, however, the information released to David Lammy by Oxford and Cambridge didn't say how many black students had actually applied to study at the universities.
In order to work out whether the student body is representative of the pool of applicants at hand we would need to know this figure.
We can garner some clues about this based on the incredibly uneven nature of application rates across local authorities - this was included in the figures.
For instance, the apparently shocking fact that nobody from Middlesbrough was accepted to study at Oxford in 2015 is somewhat mitigated by the fact that only three people from the area actually applied.
This gives an atrocious application rate of 1.6 applicants for every 1,000 eighteen year-olds living in the town, compared to Kensington and Chelsea where there were 121 applicants per 1,000.While these two examples are at the extremes it is evident that there is huge variation in the number of applications Oxbridge receives from around the country.
It is also evident that there tend to be lower levels of applicants from more deprived areas.
The places sending most applicants to Oxbridge per head tended to be affluent areas in the south of England - West London, Surrey and Buckinghamshire - while more deprived areas - Middlesbrough, Sunderland and Blackpool - barely sent any.
This variation makes it incredibly difficult in statistical terms to compare offer rates geographically - with fewer than 10 applicants in some areas the sample size for these local authorities just isn't big enough.
It seems that, in vast swathes of the country, not enough is being done to tell pupils that studying at Oxbridge is a realistic opportunity.
This all makes it incredibly difficult for Oxford and Cambridge to come away from the application process with a student body that is an accurate reflection of the economic and racial diversity of the UK as a whole.
These institutions undoubtedly have a problem with diversity, but headlines bashing Oxford and Cambridge for failing to accept a broad enough spectrum of students fails to deal with the underlying problems in the secondary education system in England and Wales."

BubblesBuddy Sat 21-Oct-17 15:19:03

So what is to be done, if anything, about Dumbledore's assertion that Northern families prefer to have children at the Northern universities because they are cheaper? That is rubbish by the way, but it is what people think. Obviously Oxbridge may not be getting the best, but the people not applying won't care about that. They are no doubt happy with their choice to stay in the North.

If children and parents really don't want to apply then the places can only go to those that do. The North is separating itself out as different by having different values.

If you live in Richmond you are probably holding down a job that requires a fairly high level of intelligence due to the cost of living. Poorer families from Richmond probably don't get children to Oxbridge either!

Deprived areas in the North and Midlands tend to have the worst schools and very few with a suitable Oxbridge profile live in those areas so it seems schools factor out this route when advising children.

How many Oxbridge educated parents now have children in receipt of pp? Few I think. Far more Oxbridge parents will have great ambition for their children based on their own success.

jeanne16 Sat 21-Oct-17 15:26:37

Bakedbeans. I am not confusing intelligence with wealth. I am quite well aware that there are many intelligent people who are not wealthy and vice versa.

However places like Richmond are actually full of very successful and intelligent middle class professionals in jobs that happen to pay very well. I also believe that intelligent people tend to have intelligent off-spring, although again not always. It is the old case of nature vs nurture, and I believe both of these factors are relevant.

Gini99 Sat 21-Oct-17 15:31:45

Thanks for copying that Mateysmum, it's useful to have journalists who are actually trying to analyse the data, as rather a lot of the reporting is just repeating David Lammy's accusations of elitism. I did think it was amusing that the BBC report's chart of the areas highest Oxford success rate included such bastions of privilege as Darlington, Gateshead and Cumbria in the top 10. Of course in reality the numbers in each local authority are probably too small to draw much of a conclusion from that (City of London, which looks to be disproportionately favoured in that chart only had 13 offers across 5 years) but it doesn't seem to sit well with the accusations of bias and Oxbridge being the "last bastion of the old school tie".

What is David Lammy's agenda with this irresponsible peddling of the 'old school tie' bias accusations rather than looking at the complexity? I'm not suggesting the admissions processes are perfect but the data that he's released looks as if most of the problem comes in the 17 years before the UCAS form goes in, not the admissions process itself. If he were in government then you could understand why pointing at Oxbridge and blaming them would be a convenient way of diverting attention from the huge regional discrepancies in life chances that affect everyone, not just the very bright. As it is he's just likely to put off students by perpetuating this idea that the admissions tutors are against applicants who aren't from the 'right' schools etc.

BubblesBuddy Sat 21-Oct-17 16:17:41

David Lammy has form for railing against perceived social inequality. He would not let analysts get in the way. I think he has been caught out about Grenfell Tower too.

His motive is pointing out how the better off and top institutions keep their status - by not letting others in. By saying the middle class and professions take what's best it spells out class and race inequality in easy to understand headlines. It's what many in Labour do now. It's whipping up them against us. In that it's "them" taking the places at Oxbridge and "us" doesn't get a look in.

horsemadmom Sat 21-Oct-17 18:06:15

If David Lammy actually cared about this instead of just scoring cheap Guardian headlines with distorted figures, why isn't he all over his constituency schools like a rash? Why doesn't he demand that they raise their standards, take poor parents to task for emotional deprivation of infants, insist that every bright 6th former apply to Oxbridge, personally help with interview prep?

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