Oxbridge condemned over state-school access failure

first_imgGovernment advisers are set to publish an annual report which will criticise Oxbridge and some constituent colleges for their failure to increase the number of state-school pupils studying at the universities. Two of the main concerns to be addressed are the failure of some major colleges to accept at least fifty percent of students from the state sector and the large discrepancy between colleges in the number of offers awarded to state-educated applicants.  The report, compiled by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, is expected to name University, St Peter’s, Trinity and Christ Church as the worst performing colleges for state-school acceptance. According to the report, Christ Church has 42.2 per cent acceptances from the state sector, Trinity 44.3 per cent, St Peter’s 47.1 per cent and University College 48.3 per cent.   Former ministers Alan Milburn and Gillian Shepherd, who produced the report, will also highlight how independently schooled pupils still make up around two-fifths of the intake at both Oxford and Cambridge.A spokesperson for Oxford University commented: “The University cannot comment on the detail of the Commission’s report ahead of publication. But we are clear that school type is an imprecise and often misleading indicator of social disadvantage.  For example, we receive applications from students on independent school bursaries who are themselves from disadvantaged backgrounds.”“For that reason Oxford takes a more precisely targeted approach to increasing the numbers of under-represented groups at Oxford. This approach has been agreed with the Office for Fair Access and is bearing positive results. The proportion of Oxford students from the lowest income households (below £16,000 pa) rose to one in ten last year.” “Oxford uses sophisticated contextual information about socio-economic, educational and in care backgrounds. This allows able candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds to be shortlisted as additional candidates for interview. Final decisions about who is admitted to Oxford are, and will remain, entirely on academic criteria.” The master at University College, Sir Ivon Crewe, defended his college’s record in an email to the student body. He said, “You may have seen recent articles in the Observer and Guardian, preceding a forthcoming report of the Social Mobility Commission, that assert that under half of those admitted by Univ are from the state sector and that Univ is one of the ‘worst performers’ in this regard. I wish to reassure you that this assertion is faulty. It appears to be based on a biased selection of inconsistent statistics, confined to a single and unrepresentative year (2013) and is highly misleading.”  “Some students see Oxford as a posh place that would be too expensive for them, but are not aware of tested bursaries and scholarships available to them. I think if more students from low-income backgrounds were aware of these, then they might be more motivated to apply.”The Access and Academic Affairs Officers at Christ Church, Joe Stephenson and Constance Crozier, told Cherwell how they were trying to meet this need: “The private to state school debate is not a new one, but is an ongoing issue which the University is addressing. The lower proportion of state school students and those from non-traditional backgrounds at Christ Church is one of the reasons why we have such an active access and outreach programme. Over the last three years we have established an ambassadorial scheme which trains student volunteers to take part in term-time access events for state schools, including tours and Q&A sessions, as well as college open days.”Stephenson and Crozier, however, were uncertain whether the report would stimulate more diverse applications: “The ‘naming and shaming’ of certain colleges serves to create negative reputations which can be long-lasting. It is likely that part of the problem is that colleges with a certain reputation – often upheld by the media – tend to receive fewer applications from state school-educated students, with the result that the pool of candidates is inevitably going to have a lower-than-average proportion of state-educated students.” St Peter’s and Trinity colleges have been contacted for comment. “References to the proportion of places offered to applicants from the state and independent sector are only meaningful if confined to UK domiciled applicants in UK schools, as is standard practice when universities and colleges report their admissions statistics publicly. On that basis the majority of places at Univ from 2011-15 were offered to state school applicants (55.4%). This is very close to the proportion for the University as a whole (55.9%).”James Quirke, a student at University College, suggested to Cherwell that responsibility for the discrepancy lay more with the schools than the university: “The difference between private and state school pupils comes from the culture in to which they have been “bred”. The problem lies in the attitude of the school. Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial and other such universities are, for private schools with demanding parents paying money for top results, not the preserve of “the best”; they are an expectation. Teachers that have attended these elite universities, earning high salaries at private schools, facilitate the application process with their own experience. Quirke added: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and state schools’ unwillingness to gamble is doing as much to damage the number of state students going to Oxbridge as any genuine classist discrimination that may exist.” In a similar vein, Charlotte Dowling, a student at Worcester College, saw the report’s results as symptomatic of a lack of support in schools and from outreach programmes. Dowling, who attended a North East London comprehensive academy, said “I think lots of students who are at State schools are put off from applying to Oxbridge for various different reasons but there are some things that access could do to encourage more people from these backgrounds to apply, especially in terms of outreach. I had friends at secondary school who had the grades for Oxbridge, but didn’t get any support with application from the sixth form because the teachers did not really know about it and no-one from Oxbridge ever visited the school.” last_img read more