…And state schools stay away

Tamara Young 30 September 2007

Privately educated pupils stand a far higher chance of getting into Cambridge than their state school counterparts – even if they get the same A-level scores.

That’s the conclusion of another report which will make awkward reading for the University’s access team.

The Sutton Trust gives financial support to educational projects aimed at youngsters from low-income households.

And in its report on university admissions, the trust found that one-third of all Oxbridge undergraduate students are drawn from a pool of just 100 schools – made up of 80 independent, 18 grammar and two state schools.

The number of students from the 30 top independent institutions who scored an Oxbridge place is nearly twice that from the 30 best grammar schools.

St Paul’s Girls’ School in Hammersmith, London, has the best ‘hit rate’ for Cambridge – over the last five years, one in five pupils has been offered a place. Of the top 10 schools feeding into Cambridge, nine are independent – and through its report the Sutton Trust found that:

•100 elite schools – less than 3% of the 3,700 schools with sixth forms and sixth form colleges in the UK – accounted for one-third of Oxbridge admissions over the past five years.

•At the 30 schools with the highest admissions rates to Oxbridge, one-quarter of university entrants from the schools went to Cambridge and Oxford universities during the five years.

•The schools with the highest admissions rates are highly selective. The 30 schools are composed of 28 independent schools, one grammar, and one comprehensive. The 100 schools with the highest admissions rates to Oxbridge are composed of 80 independent schools, 18 grammar schools, and two comprehensives.

•Overall, the top 200 schools and colleges made up 48% of admissions to Oxbridge during the five years. The other 3,500 schools and colleges accounted for the remaining 52% of admissions, with one per cent of their university entrants going to Oxbridge during the period.

• The proportion of university entrants going to Oxbridge from the top performing 30 independent schools was nearly twice that of the top performing 30 grammar schools – despite having very similar average A-level scores.

The report suggests the unfamiliar admissions procedure and a lack of aspiration – often the fault of the school – provide a tough barrier for non-private pupils wanting a Cambridge place to overcome.

Sutton Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said: “Universities need to recognise the unevenness of the system from which applicants are drawn.”

In a statement, Cambridge University said: “Every applicant is considered individually in an holistic assessment using all the information available to us. This includes academic record, which is considered in the context of the quality (but not type) of school or college at which it was achieved.

“The principal aim of the admissions policy of our colleges is to offer admission to students of the highest intellectual potential – irrespective of social, racial, religious and financial considerations.”

Tamara Young