Oxford and Cambridge condemned over failure to improve state school access

The Observer is reporting that Oxford and Cambridge universities are facing an unprecedented attack from government advisers for their failure to increase the number of state school pupils they take on.

The elite institutions’ records will be criticised and individual colleges named and shamed in a hard-hitting annual report by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission…

Written by the former Labour cabinet minister Alan Milburn and former Tory cabinet minister Gillian Shephard, his deputy on the commission, the report is expected to say that:

  • Despite an increase of 6% in the proportion of state-educated pupils between 2003-04 and 2013-14, independently schooled pupils still make up around two-fifths of the intake at both Oxford and Cambridge.
  • To meet their benchmarks for disadvantaged pupils, Oxford would need to increase the percentage of state school pupils by a quarter (24%) and Cambridge by a fifth (18%).
  • Large discrepancies between Oxbridge colleges in the number of offers to made to applicants from the state sector illustrate that many should be doing much more.
  • Some colleges make less than half of their offers to state-educated pupils. The worst performers are University College (Oxford), Robinson (Cambridge), St Peter’s (Oxford), Trinity (Oxford) and Christ Church (Oxford).
  • Even the best performers in this regard still give a quarter or more of their places to the privately educated. The Observer understands that the commission will welcome Oxbridge’s increasing use of contextual measures as a means of addressing the under-representation of lower-income and state-educated students, but demand greater and better use of it…

More at: Oxford and Cambridge condemned over failure to improve state school access


While there are many good universities, and Oxbridge won’t be right for all bright students, Oxford or Cambridge degrees are held in enormously high esteem globally and therefore are a huge asset for those who obtain them. 

That being the case, it is surely crucial that all bright and motivated students feel they have a fair crack at getting in to one of the Oxbridge colleges, which doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment.

The question, I guess, is how Oxbridge can improve access without needing to fear a lowering of standards. Your thoughts on how to crack this?

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Categories: Higher Education and Policy.


  1. cia262 SchoolsImprove In 2011, Oxford researchers raised the question about whether state pupils who did NOT gain a place at Oxford would have achieved the same degree as those private pupils who DID get in. They concluded the more likelihood of private school pupils actually gaining a place was ‘short-term teaching effects upon the secondary’school grades of private school students’. Note the description ‘short-term’. In other words, the effects didn’t last.
    Knowing that the ‘short-term teaching’ likely to have been experienced by privately-educated pupils didn’t last, then you’d expect this to be taken into account when recruiting undergraduates.  http://www.kcl.ac.uk/ImportedImages/kli/staff/ogg-zimdars-heath-2009.pdf

  2. TW

    Janet2 cia262 SchoolsImprove  Who says ‘the best people’ would necessarily wish to go to Oxbridge and be forever branded as a twat (albeit rather unfairly as some are actually very intelligent and don’t rely only on private school rote learning as a substitute for thought)?

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