My feed
Premium

Please
or
to access all these features

AIBU?

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:
Report
Pottedpalm · 01/10/2022 19:11

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

The percentage of candidates being awarded high grades has increased hugely since then.
An A grade was a pretty rate event in my grammar school in the early 70s

Report
Nolongerteaching · 01/10/2022 19:34

Hasn’t the wide spread existence and use of resources from outside of the classroom made a big difference?

From primary school upwards, there are now so many books in WHSmiths on different topics, internet resources like YouTube videos and Khan academy. University material, widely distributed now to be read by anyone.

This stuff existed in libraries for years by you had to know that in order to find it first. Now, we know it’s all out there.

School is not the only determinant in getting a good education and there is no longer a mystique about it all.

Report
CoastalWave · 01/10/2022 19:38

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)

You still had to pass the 'interview' though.

I passed the exam. I actually hated my time at the interview and realised it wasn't for me in the slightest.

Went to Nottingham Uni and had an amazing time (lots and lots of Oxbridge rejects there!!)

Report
CoastalWave · 01/10/2022 19:41

Pottedpalm · 01/10/2022 19:11

The percentage of candidates being awarded high grades has increased hugely since then.
An A grade was a pretty rate event in my grammar school in the early 70s

I agree with you. Let's be honest, I think we'd all have got straight A's in our A' levels with Google to assist us with our revision! It was a lot harder to revise back in the 80's / 90's in my opinion. If you hadn't understood the way your teacher taught it, tough. It was a course book written in impossible English to 'help'

Now you can literally type in, "Algebra for idiots' and there's a whole host of amazing videos to watch which will explain everything so easily.

A's and B's in the 90's was very decent.

Report
stripytartan · 01/10/2022 19:50

Less easy for British students. Both universities have reduced places for U.K. students over the last decade.

Report
RedDwarfGarbagePod · 01/10/2022 19:51

Something shit like anthropology

Yeah. What a waste of time, studying humans and what they do and have done since they became humans. What has the past ever taught anybody anyway?'

Report
Lampzade · 01/10/2022 19:59

Various reasons—

less people attended university
lower grades were normal because there was no messing around with grade boundaries
It was definitely more difficult to get an A only very exceptional students received A grades. Grade B was seen as an excellent grade.
Think it was easier to get in if you had connections.

Report
Lampzade · 01/10/2022 20:03

stripytartan · 01/10/2022 19:50

Less easy for British students. Both universities have reduced places for U.K. students over the last decade.

Absolutely
The universities are businesses. They are trying to attract foreign students because they pay nearly three times the amount that home students pay.
My DDs respective universities have many students from Asia and West African countries who are paying a lot of money to study here

Report
IrisVersicolor · 01/10/2022 20:11

One thing I would say is that the intelligence level required is exaggerated. Oxbridge is full of perfectly normal people with good memories who work hard (and some who don’t). There are many more people who could attend than get in due to the limits on places, and entrance has always been somewhat of a lottery.

Report
drwitch · 01/10/2022 20:11

Just a point of info on foreign students. These actually subsidise domestic students. So yes in some cases more foreign students mean fewer home places but mostly it means the reverse (especially in the sciences)

Report
rachrose8 · 01/10/2022 20:14

There has been massive grade inflation. So in the late 80s, the standard medicine offer was BBB - now it is AAA. Maths offers at good universities were BBD whereas now they are generally AAA. The Oxford 2E offer was basically the matriculation requirement - you needed 2 Es to go to any university - you had proved your worth on the entrance exam and interview.
In Covid, in 2020, when exams were cancelled, Cambridge arranged for its Maths (and some engineering ) applicants to sit their own STEP 2 and 3 papers (at great expense, as these were done remotely but with tracking software to prevent cheating). This is because most Cambridge maths offers are met, in terms of the A level grades (typically A A A or higher) so the only way to select between candidates is the additional need to get high grades in STEP.

Report
HideousKinky · 01/10/2022 20:18

I went to Oxford from a comprehensive school in the late 1970s and my own 3 DDs went to Oxford & Cambridge 30 years later. When as a parent I watched them go through the process it seemed more intensely competitive, but I think I was pretty naive when I did it myself so not sure I am necessarily judging objectively?

Report
Itsacafe · 01/10/2022 20:41

Around 70% of students at Oxbridge have achieved 3 A star at A-level. Another 20% have achieved 2 A stars and an A and then about 8% have achieved 'only' one A star and two A grades. A tiny percentage have AAA and less than 0.5% will have a B (there is likely to be highly mitigating / contextual circumstances for AAA or a single B).

For all those who get in with two or three A star grades, on average 5 times that number are rejected who will go on to get those grades. So grades alone are a guarantee of nothing.

At Cambridge, 24,000 applicants for just over 3,000 undergrad places and Oxford is the same.

Offer rates vary between courses - eg for Classics or MML it might be 1 in 3 chance of an offer, but for other courses it might be 1 in 15. The average ration of offers to applicants is 1 in 6.

The interviews and aptitude texts are an important part of selection. There is a supplementary personal statement for Cambridge.

Basically, loyd if very able students with top grades are rejected every year. They will generally go to Imperial, UCL, LSE, Durham or St Andrews. Failing that, Bristol, Warwick, Edinburgh, Bath or Manchester..

Report
Sleeplessinthesouth71 · 01/10/2022 20:42

DD straight A student (top of school) had an interview but didn't get in.
I suspect her interview let her down as she isn't that confident in her abilities. Clearly they want more assertive, confident types like Boris. I say she has a lucky escape!

Report
Itsacafe · 01/10/2022 20:46

They don't want confident, assertive types at all. Some students there are very anti-social. They want people who they feel are most suited to their style of teaching.

Report
PhotoDad · 01/10/2022 20:55

They want people who care about their subject. (And are good at it.) But that's not enough, mainly due to the collegiate system.

I am a teacher who sees a lot of Oxbridge applicants (and helps with UCAS etc). It is almost impossible for me to predict who will get past the interview stage, as it depends on who else has applied for that subject at that college that year. All a complete lottery. Suppose, by chance, the "best" 30 candidates to the whole uni for a subject all happen to apply to the same college? In theory, the system corrects for that, but... no, it doesn't, in my experience. Don't get me started on the Cambridge system of "Pooling."

(If it matters, I went to Oxford for my first degree, and to Cambridge for my M.Phil., before jumping ship to KCL for my Ph.D. At the time, I didn't realise quite how much luck was involved in the process. Also, if it matters, I was the first generation of my family to go to uni, I come from a working-class family, and I was on a 100% scholarship to an independent school. So classify me how you will!)

Report
marmiteadict · 01/10/2022 20:57

I don't think 'so called' top grades are anything anymore.

Back in the 80's you had to be brilliant at a subject at an A level to get a grade A.

Exam boards are now independent business. As are universities. Their goal is to satisfy their customer and to make maximum revenue. So schools follow the money.

Oxford and Cambridge have long since said they wanted the 9k UK capped tuition fee removed.

If not, they would accept increasing numbers of foreign students.

Report
Valeriekat · 02/10/2022 07:42

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

Yes but the grades were norm referenced then.

Report
user29 · 02/10/2022 14:17

rachrose8 · 01/10/2022 20:14

There has been massive grade inflation. So in the late 80s, the standard medicine offer was BBB - now it is AAA. Maths offers at good universities were BBD whereas now they are generally AAA. The Oxford 2E offer was basically the matriculation requirement - you needed 2 Es to go to any university - you had proved your worth on the entrance exam and interview.
In Covid, in 2020, when exams were cancelled, Cambridge arranged for its Maths (and some engineering ) applicants to sit their own STEP 2 and 3 papers (at great expense, as these were done remotely but with tracking software to prevent cheating). This is because most Cambridge maths offers are met, in terms of the A level grades (typically A A A or higher) so the only way to select between candidates is the additional need to get high grades in STEP.

I think Maths A level is not like university maths, and not a great epredictor of mathmatical ability , that is teh reason for STEP papers.
Good university Maths offers eg Durham are now AAA I am not so sure A levels are getting easier, I just think tehre are a lot better resources and more spoonfeeding now

Report
user29 · 02/10/2022 14:20

I meant to type offers of A (star) A(star) A but it bolded my text instead😆

Report
PhotoDad · 02/10/2022 14:21

user29 · 02/10/2022 14:20

I meant to type offers of A (star) A(star) A but it bolded my text instead😆

@user29 The threads on exam results are full of bolded text for that reason!

Report
LegoFiends · 02/10/2022 14:25

Strategies to get into Oxbridge are more accessible to applicants because of the internet. Few of the applicants from my state school got in because many had no idea what they were doing. After having been, I realise that many would have been successful if they had applied to different colleges or prepared for the interview.

Report

Don’t want to miss threads like this?

Weekly

Sign up to our weekly round up and get all the best threads sent straight to your inbox!

Log in to update your newsletter preferences.

You've subscribed!

user29 · 02/10/2022 14:43

Nolongerteaching · 01/10/2022 19:34

Hasn’t the wide spread existence and use of resources from outside of the classroom made a big difference?

From primary school upwards, there are now so many books in WHSmiths on different topics, internet resources like YouTube videos and Khan academy. University material, widely distributed now to be read by anyone.

This stuff existed in libraries for years by you had to know that in order to find it first. Now, we know it’s all out there.

School is not the only determinant in getting a good education and there is no longer a mystique about it all.

Exactly, I know DD has a hopeless teacher an d watches YouTube vids made by good teachers instaed
I did A levels in 1987 and revision texts were just beginning to come out then., but they were very dry and wordy, nothing like today

Report
IrisVersicolor · 02/10/2022 14:44

LegoFiends · 02/10/2022 14:25

Strategies to get into Oxbridge are more accessible to applicants because of the internet. Few of the applicants from my state school got in because many had no idea what they were doing. After having been, I realise that many would have been successful if they had applied to different colleges or prepared for the interview.

A very straightfoward way to get more state students into Oxbridge is simply to insist that all state schools have provision to prepare those who want to try.

Report
Croque · 02/10/2022 14:49

I am all for the internationalization of the student market. It has raised grade requirements massively even though exams are arguably easier to pass nowadays. Determined thickos always managed to blag their way into good universities with abysmal grades. There was a shortage of candidates (for non-medical science degrees in particular). I remember somebody getting DEE and winning a place at Imperial in clearing FFS. That would never happen now

Report
Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.