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That it used to be easier to get to Cambridge or Oxford than it is now??

270 replies

countingdownagain · 01/10/2022 17:35

I know a few people that went to Oxbridge in the 70/80s that I struggle to imagine they'd have a hope of getting in today.

It strikes me that it if you were male, fairly well spoken, it was much easier to get in than it would be now??

OP posts:
Testina · 01/10/2022 17:40

Thought this was going to be about bus timetables 🤷🏻‍♀️

Angelinflipflops · 01/10/2022 17:45

Apparently it's not so easy for private school kids to get in as it once was

Teenyliving · 01/10/2022 17:46

cripes - well obviously the same number of people are going - so what you’re saying it was easier for while men from privileged backgrounds. Who it seems for you are the derail humans.

JustAWeirdoWithNoName · 01/10/2022 17:46

Probably because more people are going to university in general compared with 40-50 years ago

Pottedpalm · 01/10/2022 17:47

Only a small percentage went to University in the 70s; you still needed to be among the best academically though .

MangyInseam · 01/10/2022 17:49

I think the demographics have shifted a lot and they are drawing from a larger pool. Including a much bigger pool internationally.

NancyJoan · 01/10/2022 17:49

Several people in my year at school got in with a mix of As and Bs at A level in the mid 90s. Not a hope of that these days

Meeem · 01/10/2022 17:50

Lots more overseas students who bring money with them for the university.

WagathaChristieMystery · 01/10/2022 17:53

Why do you think it was easier, OP? I don’t think I agree it was easier.

The entry requirements were - and still are - so specific and rigorous that both universities are still quite exclusive and they can afford to be choosy (although they are getting better at attracting and accepting students from a more diverse range of backgrounds now).

I think the entry requirements are still fairly similar to how they were years ago. In the 60/70s, you had to do an entrance exam and interview to get in, and you still have to do that now.

I think keeping those strict entry requirements is one of the reasons why Oxford and Cambridge still have such a good reputation. Having said that, there are - of course - many other reasons too, including their unique teaching style etc.

user29 · 01/10/2022 17:54

one of DS friends recently got an offer for something shit like anthropology AAB

WagathaChristieMystery · 01/10/2022 17:54

Pottedpalm · 01/10/2022 17:47

Only a small percentage went to University in the 70s; you still needed to be among the best academically though .

I completely agree with @Pottedpalm.

Nolongerteaching · 01/10/2022 17:57

one of DS friends recently got an offer for something shit like anthropology AAB

whays wrong with anthropology? @user29

marmiteadict · 01/10/2022 17:59

The demographic of 18 year olds has increased.

Foreign students are coveted by Universities as they can charge increased tuition fees whilst UK students are capped at 9K

Durham for example is looking for a 40% foreign student entry this year.

So less places and so grades have increased at most universities.

ColouringPencils · 01/10/2022 18:00

I was encouraged to apply, and got to interview, in the 90s with predicted grades of ABB. I didn't get an offer, but that was because I didn't do as well at interview, not because of my grades. At the time, I think it was quite normal to get an unconditional or very low offer after interview. A girl I knew got an offer of 2 Es. Not sure if they still do that.

Then again, everyone else I met on the interview days was privately educated, so maybe I would have stood a better chance against them today (I went to a state school).

PhotoDad · 01/10/2022 18:01

I think that, today, lots of people apply who wouldn't have done so in the 70s/80s, because they thought that Oxbridge wasn't for them. Amongst those people will be those who are very well-fitted for Oxbridge. This can come over at interview much better than on a form.

I also rather hope that video interviews stay the norm. "Oh, please jump on a train for an interview next week, or get someone to drive you" just isn't possible for a lot of students. A big pool of applicants is a good thing.

I don't know whether international numbers have changed. Oxbridge has always recruited from all around the world.

marmiteadict · 01/10/2022 18:04

One of my classmates got a 2E offer for Cambridge then got pretty near EE.

Let's just say they weren't keen for her to turn up and basically told her they would fail her at the end of year 1 if she did.

Had a great time at Bristol

balalake · 01/10/2022 18:05

Must have been judging by some of the people who were admitted then.

TeenDivided · 01/10/2022 18:06

I did maths at Cambridge in the 80s. I don't think I would be good enough to get in now. There is wider participation at university generally these days, and top universities have put effort into outreach to encourage schools/pupils to apply who wouldn't have normally. There is more visibility of the admissions process, e.g. the STEP papers and how to approach them.

So if you were of the right background it was easier in the 80s (and thus the other side of the coin it is harder now). If you were the 'wrong' background it was harder in the 80s, and easier now.

I think standards must be higher now than they were then.

I still read too much on MN though of young people not applying because they think it's 'not for them' which is a shame.

countingdownagain · 01/10/2022 18:10

Teenyliving · 01/10/2022 17:46

cripes - well obviously the same number of people are going - so what you’re saying it was easier for while men from privileged backgrounds. Who it seems for you are the derail humans.

What a weird comment!!? I'm doing nothing of the sort. It was a question!

OP posts:
IglesiasPiggl · 01/10/2022 18:13

I think they do a much better job now at actually finding the best people than they used to. As opposed to just those who were quite clever and "fitted the part".

Sarasandman · 01/10/2022 18:24

I went to Cambridge in the late 90s and I had the same thought about earlier generations (almost all male, educated privately or grammar school). The pool was a lot smaller; excluding women as well as those disadvantaged by background. (There were still fewer women students than male when I was there and the sexism and misogyny from staff and students was appalling.)
The admissions process was extremely stressful and difficult and I wouldn't want to put my child through it. Students from public schools had been taught to a higher standard so I struggled to catch up (the degree expects a higher level of education than A levels offer, or at least did for my subject at the time): the difference between state and private education stood out because of this. I believe state school applicants are now offered catch up classes in the summer before starting for some subjects.

I think it's hard to tell whether it's harder or easier nowadays. Perhaps different? The world has changed with the internet: today's students have vast resources and information at their fingertips, while we had to hope to get to the one dog-eared book in the library before any of the other tens of students who had been given five days only to research and write an essay on it that week. A levels have changed, with far more coursework (easier for those who struggle with exams; harder perhaps for those in crowded or chaotic homes with nowhere to study, like mine — thank goodness I had exams only!). I think it's so different it's hard to judge, but personally I would have preferred a university with less sexism, less pressure, more interest in learning than in aiming for careers in the I'd encourage students to look at other universities.

Simonjt · 01/10/2022 18:28

I mean I got in…so yeah, entry standards aren’t as tough as people think. I was however turned down by Durham and Southampton.

MrsBennetsPoorNerves · 01/10/2022 18:31

I imagine it was easier if you were a privately educated white man. Much less so if you didn't tick those boxes.

BeanStew22 · 01/10/2022 18:33

I think it probably is harder than ever now, because so many people go to University

It definitely was not easy when I went in the 90s: I did well on the entrance exam, got a 2 E offer & went - my a levels were 2As, a B and an S level in my degree subject too

I was at a v academic school, I think about 10% applied, and maybe 1/4 got in. There were 70 applications per place for my course. My ‘Oxbridge reject’ classmates now include several PhDs, lawyers, doctors, academics… no more/less successful than the classmates that did get in

I do think in earlier generations (before 60s certainly) it was easier to get in with connections, plus many colleges were only letting women in from the 70s & 80s

There were some students from ‘normal/average ’ & even deprived backgrounds when I was there but honestly vast majority were MC & privileged.

ladyinthecampervan · 01/10/2022 18:44

Unconditional or EE offers were made to applicants who had taken (and passed) entrance exams.

Entrance exams weren’t compulsory in the 90s so you had some students who opted to take them and some who didn’t (who would then get the usual 3A or 3A&1B type offers)

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