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Oxbridge over recruits from eight schools, according to Sutton Trust charity


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A study by social mobility charity Sutton Trust has found that Oxbridge over-recruits from eight schools.

Using admissions data from 2015 to 2017, the study found that places were disproportionately awarded to students of just eight schools, most of them private. 1,310 places went to students from those schools, while 2,900 other schools, accounting for three-quarters of all secondary schools, made up just 1,220 of the remainder.

While the charity was using anonymised data, it believes most of the places went to students from private schools, with several large sixth-form colleges in the mix.

Published data indicates the following schools are likely to be in the top eight: 

  • Eton College, Berkshire - independent, yearly fees of £40,668
  • King's College School, London - independent, yearly fees of £21,600
  • Magdalen College School, Oxford - independent, yearly fees of £18,477
  • St Paul's School, London - independent, yearly fees of £25,032, boarding of £37,611 per year
  • St Paul's Girl's School, London - independent, yearly fees of £24,891 or £26,760 (Year 12 entry)
  • Westminster School, London - independent, yearly fees of £27,174 or £29,709 (sixth form entry), boarding of £39,252 per year
  • Hills Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge - state sixth form college
  • Peter Symonds College, Hampshire - state sixth form college
The study blames the disparity on a lack of advice and guidance for applicants, and recommended better information be provided on entry requirements as well as for Oxbridge admissions to take candidates' backgrounds into account.

However, in an article on the Cambridge University Student Union website, the SU's Access and Funding Officer Shadab Ahmed cautioned against drawing the wrong conclusions from this study.

They wrote: "Whilst of course headlines are always written to be provocative, to pit two extremes of a radically unequal and unfair educational system against each other is completely unjust and fuels the divide that applicants often perceive, further dissuading them from applying. To compare the schooling of the “super-elite” top independent schools with comprehensives on the brink of closure is nonsensical."

"Instead of focusing on the state vs independent dichotomy, external parties should be focusing on other metrics of disadvantage and under-representation: FSM1, IMD2, POLAR3 and ethnicity for example. If addressed properly, we would indirectly increase the number of state-educated students, in a meaningful way. A more holistic view of the issue is needed."

Some activists for the National Union of Students criticised the survey as well, with the former Cambridge SU Women's Officer and current NUS Women's Campaign NEC 2nd Place Lola Olufemi referring to it as "flog[ging] a dead horse" and NUS PGR Rep Amelia Horgan calling for attention to be focused elsewhere.

The administrations at Oxford and Cambridge nonetheless acknowledged the scale of the problem. Martin Williams, Oxford University's pro-vice-chancellor for education, said: "We are very much aware that Oxford must work harder to attract a more representative selection of students from across the UK."

A spokesman for the University of Cambridge welcomed the idea that "more support should be made available to students before they choose their A-level subjects and agree there should be more provision of careers advice", but rejected "lowering grade requirements" as it would "place unfair pressure on students and that is something the university cannot support".


1: Free School Meals

2: Indices of Multiple Deprivation, a measure of how deprived an area is relative to others

3: Participation of Local Areas, a measure of how likely young people are to participate in higher education

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