Oxbridge facing ”unprecedented attack” over failure to improve state school access

Elsa Maishman 14 December 2015

A ''hard-hitting'' annual report is set to condem Oxford and Cambridge for their failure to increase intake from state schools, the Guardian has reported.

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission report, to be released on Thursday, is expected to ''name and shame'’ individual colleges, with Robinson listed as a particularly poor performer.

Despite an increase of 6% in the proportion of state-educated students between 2003-04 and 2013-14, the failure of Oxbridge colleges to increase the number of state educated pupils in colleges is to be strongly criticised by the report.

On Thursday, a commission led by former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn and former Tory cabinet minister Gillian Shephard will say that in order to meet their own benchmarks for disadvantaged pupils, Oxford will need to increase their percentage of state school pupil acceptances by a quarter (24%) and Cambridge by a fifth (18%).

Though just 2.2% of the most deprived students attain high A-level grades, the report will argue that these statistics offer '‘no excuse'’ for Oxbridge’s intake figures.

In response to this report, the Access Officer of Queens’ JCR commented that “whilst it can seem admirable that that Oxbridge are looking to increase their state-school intake, and it should indeed be encouraged that they do so, a tokenistic rise in the number of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds will not adequately change Oxbridge's perception and attitudes to non-traditional groups.”

The commission will commend Oxbridge’s improving use of contextual measures to address under-representation of lower-income and state-educated students, but with some Oxbridge colleges making less than half of their offers to state-educated pupils and even the best performing colleges giving a quarter or more of their places to privately educated students, the Commission will also call for ‘'better'’ and '‘greater'’ use of current access methods.

Speaking to The Cambridge Student, a Cambridge University spokesperson said: “The University works hard to raise aspirations among disadvantaged groups and to improve their access to Cambridge and higher education in general.  Our policy is to offer admission to students of the highest intellectual potential, irrespective of their background. We will read Mr Milburn's report with interest when it is published on Thursday.”