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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:
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Croque · 02/10/2022 14:50

Oxbridge standards are definitely lower due to the concessions being made for state school pupils. It is much harder to get in for public school pupils than before.

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Takeittotheboss · 02/10/2022 14:52

Increases in international student numbers will increase the income of the university, BUT doesnot influence the numbers of home students taken in. ( home student numbers are set by the government). The more international students the university has, the more money (in theory) there is to spend on facilities for all students.

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Abra1t · 02/10/2022 14:54

I had a two E offer but had already taken their internal exams and got through the interviews. My actual A level results in 1982 were AAA. Most people in my college group had at least AAB.

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Signeduptosimplyreplytothis · 02/10/2022 14:56

It's really really easy to get in for mature postgraduate so if you miss the boat as an undergraduate wait a few years and apply

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Croque · 02/10/2022 14:57

Takeittotheboss · 02/10/2022 14:52

Increases in international student numbers will increase the income of the university, BUT doesnot influence the numbers of home students taken in. ( home student numbers are set by the government). The more international students the university has, the more money (in theory) there is to spend on facilities for all students.

But grade requirements are much higher for all students aren't they? Even some of the newer universities are asking for high grades. As for the number of firsts being awarded, I will save it for a different thread.

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Moonlaserbearwolf · 02/10/2022 15:03

There are simply a lot more applications now - many from overseas.

Oxford
2021 - 24,000 applications, approx 3,500 offers
1998 - nearly 10,000 applications, 3,300 offers

Obviously your chances differ according to subject, but there is now potentially a 1 in 8 chance vs 1 in 3 chance a couple of decades ago. Of course, the quality of the 24,000 applicants might not be as high as the 10,000 applicants of 20 years ago. Not sure how many applicants get an interview. Interview vs offers might be a better stat to compare.

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Bovrilly · 02/10/2022 15:40

Croque · 02/10/2022 14:50

Oxbridge standards are definitely lower due to the concessions being made for state school pupils. It is much harder to get in for public school pupils than before.

I'm sure this is just a bit of goadiness but just in case you're serious, this is not the case. Oxford and Cambridge figured out that they were missing out on very talented state school students and have taken steps to fix that. So now it's harder for private school applicants because thanks to a lot of WP work on the part of the universities, more state school students are applying and some of them are better. They have to get the same grades, and they do that without the advantages of a private education. Standards are not lower.

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BernadetteRostankowskiWolowitz · 02/10/2022 15:47

The only barrier to entry for Oxbridge should be excellent grades. That hasn't always been the case. And now that they are acknowledging that state schools can get great academic results from their students, they are working with them to encourage applications.

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badbaduncle · 02/10/2022 15:49

Then it was easier for poshos with poor grades to get in because their teachers knew the interview panel and it was all a done deal. Now it is easier for hard working students from comps to get in. Much fairer. DS gets a grant and is extremely well supported by his tutors who clearly take great pride in their extremely diverse cohort.

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badbaduncle · 02/10/2022 15:50

Croque · 02/10/2022 14:50

Oxbridge standards are definitely lower due to the concessions being made for state school pupils. It is much harder to get in for public school pupils than before.

They are higher, not lower. It used to be EE, DS got 4x A and an A at EPQ as did his peers.

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Nolongerteaching · 02/10/2022 15:51

@BernadetteRostankowskiWolowitz

i didn’t have stellar grades and applied for a postgrad.

I got in and had an amazing year there.

This was for the PGCE so it was a vocational course but it is assessed at masters level. No WP/ exceptions for me ( this was nearly 30 years ago).

I agree with the poster who said it is about engagement with subject. That’s what the tutors are looking for.

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ATwirlADay · 02/10/2022 15:52

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

That's like a mix of As and A-stars today
.... which would be feasible.

There were no A-stars back in the 90s. BBC we're really good, Russell Group worthy grades (as AAB is today)

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Perfectlystill · 02/10/2022 15:54

It was easier for stupid posh people to get in in the old days.

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Nolongerteaching · 02/10/2022 15:58

Also Oxford now publish a guide for teachers on how to support and advise students who want to go.

They discovered that many teachers were unsure/ uncomfortable themselves about the process and what was expected of students ( I don’t think plays like the History Boys helped).

Duke if Edinburgh/ violin lessons etc all great but if irrelevant to your subject then irrelevant to the tutors. I think private schools for a long time sold this idea that these extracurricular things made a difference.

They can’t because they are determined by the the school not the student so they aren’t fair across the board for students who don’t have access.

And lastly, it is important to point out that many of the professors/ tutors themselves may not have attended Oxbridge. They are often uncomfortable with the assumptions, too.

For a long time the Brideshead Revisted image pushed by the media dominated but no body talks about the actual work. The constant study - it’s a university and like every other one the work has to get done.

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Croque · 02/10/2022 15:59

A lot of the clever posh people are being rejected nowadays. Perhaps I should not have attributed a single factor to the fall in standards but I am not imagining that there are a lot of mediocre, young Oxford/Cambridge graduates around nowadays.

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Cheeselog · 02/10/2022 15:59

Testina · 01/10/2022 17:40

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

Me too, I came to say take the X5 🤣

I didn’t find it that hard to get in - a decade ago for undergrad at one and less than that for postgrad at the other one. But I didn’t do the most popular subject. I went to a comprehensive school, for undergrad the interviews were just an interesting discussion to establish how much I knew and whether I was capable of thinking. My offer was A*AA. For postgrad it was even easier, I think all I had to do was a writing sample and personal statement, there was no interview.

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BruceHellerAlmighty · 02/10/2022 16:01

It was a lot harder to be in the group where you could even consider applying for Oxford years ago, but if you were in that group then yeah I guess it was easier - because nobody else has a cat in hell's chance to start with. You're still way more likely to get a place if you're privately educated.

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EcoTourist · 02/10/2022 16:07

This reply has been deleted

This has been deleted by MNHQ for breaking our Talk Guidelines.

Bovrilly · 02/10/2022 16:08

A lot of the clever posh people are being rejected nowadays. Perhaps I should not have attributed a single factor to the fall in standards but I am not imagining that there are a lot of mediocre, young Oxford/Cambridge graduates around nowadays.

A lot of clever people from all kinds of backgrounds are rejected nowadays, because they have many times as many applications as there are places available.

If you don't think there are many mediocre graduates, what do you mean by fall in standards, how are you measuring that?

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Panicmode1 · 02/10/2022 16:10

DS started at Cambridge yesterday, studying engineering. 15 of his peers got in from their superselective state grammar this year (and 5 to Oxford). They all got three or four A stars at A level, plus A or A stars in their EPQs, had to take entrance exams, have rigorous interviews and my DS worked almost solidly for 6 months.

I had an interview at Oxford for law in the 90s. I messed it up and when I got back to my (private) school, my tutor said "oh I know X the admissions tutor, I'll have a chat and they will take you". I told her not to because if I wasn't good enough to go on merit, I shouldn't be given a place. I imagine that is why fewer private school places are available now - everyone has to compete on their merit and grades, not their connections, which is right. (There are also fewer places for 'home' students so I would argue it is harder to get in.)

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Panicmode1 · 02/10/2022 16:16

So I'm agreeing with the OP and disagreeing with others saying grade inflation has made it easier/A levels meaningless.

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RosesAndHellebores · 02/10/2022 16:25

DH 1979 was offered 3Bs. He got AAB. Northern comp.

DD 2016 interviewed and no offer, predicted AAB; got AAA* and reapplied the following year, interviewed and offered.
DS 2013: interviewed offered 42IB points, turned it down in a moment of rebellion - got 44IB points and reapplied the following year, interviewed and offered.

DS/DDs offers were stiffer than DHs but they both attended London independents.
What they both had was tremendous school support and prep which DH says he didn't have. It was his mother who pushed.

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MarshaBradyo · 02/10/2022 16:27

Things have changed and state schools have better connections - just going by the state comp we use which has a very good approach

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TalbotAMan · 02/10/2022 16:32

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

That's because of A level grade inflation. A B then is easily an A now, if not higher.

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nightwakingmoon · 02/10/2022 16:41

Lampzade · 01/10/2022 20:03

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

This is not remotely true. Offers to international applicants have in fact gone down dramatically — to the point that both universities are concerned this year that not enough overseas offers are being made. Other global universities (and others in the U.K. top ten like Imperial) make many more international offers.

If anything, overseas offers have been crowded out by the drive to admit a much bigger proportion of state educated U.K. applicants.

The average student admitted in my subject now has a straight 3/4 A* at A-level. The days of nice posh people getting in on a nod and a wink are decades ago now. And yes, it probably is a lot harder to get in now as an independent-school candidate than even a few years ago: mainly because interviewers are well aware of the kind of additional privilege those at independent schools have compared to the average state applicant.

As a result, if you are a nice, middle-class, but intellectually mediocre private school student, with good but unexceptional grades, you are going to find it much less easy to get into the top universities nowadays compared to a state school student with similar grades.

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