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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:
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MargaretThursday · 11/02/2023 13:08

When I applied it was about 30% acceptance, whereas now I think it's about half that.

I think some of that is that they have done a lot of work in persuading schools (and candidates) who would have just dismissed Oxford as a possibility to apply because "it's not for us". So they're getting more applications per place.
That will mean that on average the standard has gone up, assuming that the more applications are from people who have the same normal distribution as the previous applications, which is likely.

The 2E offers were when they did the entrance exam back in the 90s and if you got in after the entrance exam they had already seen your work so didn't care what A-levels you got. You had to get 2Es to get a grant though, which was why they set it there.
2E offers were much more common in those days. I had 3.

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faffadoodledo · 11/02/2023 13:43

Floofyduffypuddy · 11/02/2023 12:29

@nightwakingmoon which uni.

What can make a history student stand out?
/
Would head girl /boy dote matter in this thank you

@Floofyduffypuddy DS applied and got in for English, so similar. Head girl/boy can be bundled into a sentence at the end about other achievements/ interests. They'll want the bulk of the PS (think 90 per cent plus) to be about the subject - motivation, interests, extra study, future study amd links to future career if relevant.
I think DS put in a sentence saying he'd been HB, had a part time job, and played in a band. That was it. No guff about what he achieved as HB (unless it had a history link, which it didn't!).

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GertrudePerkinsPaperyThing · 11/02/2023 14:23

“If you were male and reasonably well spoken”’is quite a big “if” though. Also if you were white of course.

It’ll undoubtedly be harder for some now because of attempts to level the playing field a bit. Still much easier if you’re part of those groups than if you’re not of course.

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MoreSleepPleasee · 11/02/2023 14:31

I know people at Oxford and was genuinely surprised (but elated) they got in. Just normal average Jane from down the road kind of people. Not extremely clever but has passion.

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ScrollingLeaves · 11/02/2023 14:53

Mirabai · Today 12:11
*Easier from state school harder from private school+.

However the standard at Oxbridge is and has always been overplayed. The majority of the intake get a 2.1 and probably would have got a 2.1 at a red brick

The weekly work loads and the amount of material covered over the course of the degree are completely different.

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Mirabai · 11/02/2023 15:07

ScrollingLeaves · 11/02/2023 14:53

Mirabai · Today 12:11
*Easier from state school harder from private school+.

However the standard at Oxbridge is and has always been overplayed. The majority of the intake get a 2.1 and probably would have got a 2.1 at a red brick

The weekly work loads and the amount of material covered over the course of the degree are completely different.

I know, I went. Shorter terms, more intensive workload, but at the end - the majority leave with a 2.1 as they likely would have done at a red brick.

I don’t think it’s sensible to mythologise educational institutions - all the wang about the best, most able, most passionate students. They take a bunch of kids who are good at exams and make a random selection. That’s it.

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Greenraincoat12 · 11/02/2023 15:11

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).

Same here, state school (didn't have a hope in hell tbh). I still went to interview, did my best, didn't get in. My teachers chose a college they believed were more accepting of state schools 🙄
Looking back, it was the wrong course for me. I had the potential and went on to achieve a first class honours degree and a PhD after that. I just didn't have parents that had even been to university, so I had no support in that sense. I didn't have enough confidence and my home life felt like a struggle, which made studying difficult.
I had such a good time at the Oxford interview and made friends even though they were much posher than me. I found the tutors very stuffy and snobby so I was glad I didn't get in (they were very rude to me).

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ToWhitToWhoo · 11/02/2023 15:38

Floofyduffypuddy · 11/02/2023 12:29

@nightwakingmoon which uni.

What can make a history student stand out?
/
Would head girl /boy dote matter in this thank you

No, at least at a British university, being head boy or girl would not be relevant to an application for a history degree. Only academic potential and motivation are considered. Thus, exam results especially in relevant subjects, and references from teachers, would be taken into account; so might demonstrating interest in the subject by e.g. doing a relevant research project. Aptitude tests might also be used; and especially at Oxbridge, interviews might be used to assess the applicant's ability to understand and reason about historical topics.

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faffadoodledo · 11/02/2023 15:52

You cannot compare a 2.1 from Oxbridge with one from say Russel group. Just looking at the English degree - far more covered, far more essays written, far more original source material (rather than translation) used.

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EffortlessDesmond · 11/02/2023 16:14

I don't know, because I didn't apply as in 1974, the top colleges were still single sex! I applied for the next five highest rated universities offering appealing courses, and was accepted by all five including an offer of EE, before taking my A levels. However, once at university I discovered fun, did no work -- hence my username.

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Mirabai · 11/02/2023 16:21

Of course you can compare. Friends of mine who got 2.1s from red bricks would probably have done the same at Oxbridge. Most had the grades to go but chose elsewhere or were rejected. Some employers and post grad degrees require a 2.1 degree - but they don’t care where it’s from.

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wherethewaterisdarker · 11/02/2023 16:28

Err @Mirabai a lot of employers would absolutely value a 2.1 from Oxbridge above a 2.1 from a red brick uni… it still holds a different weight in a lot of industries. This is partly for slightly problematic elitist/old boys and girls networky reasons, but also because a degree of any mark is significantly harder to achieve at Oxbridge than at a next tier down uni.

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faffadoodledo · 11/02/2023 16:39

@Mirabai I'm sure your children could have done. But they'd have to have worked a lot harder, and produced a lot more material, having read much more widely.

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Emotionalstorm · 11/02/2023 16:59

I went to a state school and got in. I knew around 10 other people who did (either from my school or family friends). In my opinion it is now easier for those from working class backgrounds to get in.

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Emotionalstorm · 11/02/2023 17:02

FYI my degree from Oxford never guaranteed me a job but I've always progressed to the interview round. I think it gets your foot through the door but it isn't a magic bullet.

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Mirabai · 11/02/2023 17:03

At the risk of countering one wild un-substantiated claim with another - most employers don’t care where your degree is from - they may require a 2.1

  • but they certainly don’t require Oxbridge.

    Ex Oxbridge are more heavily represented in certain professions but that involves a complex picture which includes cultural capital and family background.

    In my day, Oxbridge had less than half the number of applicants it does now and the intake was more heavily weighted to private school.
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Mirabai · 11/02/2023 17:09

faffadoodledo · 11/02/2023 16:39

@Mirabai I'm sure your children could have done. But they'd have to have worked a lot harder, and produced a lot more material, having read much more widely.

Having a certain kind of academic education doesn’t mean you’d be any better at your job.

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Emotionalstorm · 11/02/2023 17:10

Oxford has a tutorial system. These are one on one sessions (weekly) sessions with tutors where you learn the material. In my case I was given a reading list and questions a week before each tutorial and was expected to complete this before turning up. The interview at Oxford is a bit like the tutorials. The purpose of the interview is to see whether the student would benefit from learning from this kind of setting. I was told that anyone who has an invite to the Oxbridge interview has good grades. They are trying to find out whether their way of teaching is the right way for you.

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Emotionalstorm · 11/02/2023 17:12

In my subject, interviewers typically do not ask questions that are on the A Level syllabus. They tend to ask questions that you cannot prepare for and then they assess whether you are able to pick things up during the interview. During my interview, I talked thoroughly about my thinking process (eventhough I didn't have the answers) and asked for information that I did not have in order to solve the question.

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Emotionalstorm · 11/02/2023 17:15

What I am saying is, you could be well read, clever and hardworking but may be rejected because the interviewer believed that you would not benefit from the tutorial system.

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faffadoodledo · 11/02/2023 17:16

Not what I was saying @Mirabai
I was just making the point that academically the degrees aren't comparable. Just as a RG uni degree isn't necessarily directly comparable with one from elsewhere.

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Mirabai · 11/02/2023 17:35

By that token you can’t compare a degree from one institution with any other. Where does that leave you?

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faffadoodledo · 11/02/2023 17:43

Maybe I need to clarify what you're trying to say @Mirabai
I've never said someone from Oxbridge will do a better job after they graduate than someone non Oxbridge (by the way I'm non Oxbridge).
But are you saying a degree from a RG is the same in terms of rigour and content as one from say Oxbridge? You could throw places like Imperial in for subjects like maths. And others too which have particular specialisms. But generally speaking..

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EffortlessDesmond · 11/02/2023 20:38

Some degrees from some institutions that are not Oxbridge are regarded as the gold standard. In the 1970s when I was a student at Bristol, the aeronautical engineering degree ( I didn't do it) failed the bottom third of the class, automatically. But then, Bristol was the world centre of supersonic aerospace and research.

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EffortlessDesmond · 11/02/2023 20:46

But then normative marking was routine. If A levels went back to normative marking, A and A* star marks would be as vanishingly rare as they used to be. In my graduating class, across Politics, Philosophy, Economics and Sociology, (approx 250 students) there was ONE first awarded in 1977. The exceptional candidates stood out.

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