State school students at Cambridge rises but targets questioned

Stevie Hertz 1 June 2015

The proportion state schools students matriculating in 2014 rose to 62.2%, up from 61.4% the year before. Figures released by the University of Cambridge show that 37.8% of new students had previously studied at private schools.

In contrast, 56.3% of Oxford University’s 2014 matriculating class were from state schools, a slight decrease from 56.8% in 2013

According to recent figures from the Independent Schools Council, 14% of 16-18 year olds attend private schools. However, despite the disparity between the proportion attending private schools and those matriculating, Cambridge is within its targets.

The target, agreed by the Office of Fair Access to higher education in England, is for 61-63% of students to be from state schools.

However, the Cambridge Director of Admissions, Dr Mike Sewell, argues that students were not selected to fill the target but rather “that they have been assessed holistically as an individual. Those who have been successful have won their offers and acceptances on the basis of their academic achievements and by demonstrating their potential to excel at Cambridge."

The increase instead comes from outreach work, which the University spent £4.5 million on, last year alone.

Nonetheless, a spokesperson from Oxford critiqued the use of school type as an indicator of access, telling the BBC it could be “crude and sometimes misleading”, given the variation in state school (which includes grammar schools) and private school quality, as well the role of scholarships.

Indeed, the director of the Office of Fair Access, Professor Les Ebdon, said that despite progress, “Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are still nearly seven times less likely to attend a highly selective university than their most advantaged counterparts”