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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 30 October, 2001, 12:14 GMT
Cambridge counters 'elitism' claim
Gary Sinclair
The college said Mr Sinclair's claims were "frustrating"
A Cambridge college has defended its decision not to offer a place to a student who gained some of the best Higher results in Scotland.

Gary Sinclair who attended Fortrose Academy on the Black Isle, failed to get a place at Cambridge despite securing straight A-grades in his Higher, Sixth Year Studies and Advanced Higher exams in five subjects.


While we can appreciate his and his school's disappointment, places are limited and we cannot find space for every marginal candidate

Dr Jane Hughes
Mr Sinclair, 18, accused Magdalene College of elitism, saying his state school background had played a part in the decision.

Writing in Scotland's Herald newspaper, the college's admission tutor, Dr Jane Hughes, said it was "frustrating and perplexing" to hear such allegations.

The number of state school pupils applying to Cambridge had risen by 10% in the past year, said Dr Hughes.

"We are perplexed because the college conducted the admissions process with rigorous attention to fair play and the just, equitable treatment of every candidate, each one of whom was given very careful and individual consideration," she wrote.

Low predictions

Dr Hughes explained that Mr Sinclair's predicted grades were lower than the five A grades he actually got in his Advanced Higher and Sixth Year Studies exams.

Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy said he would take up the teenager's cause
She said he was originally rated last on the list of 23 candidates for nine places to study natural sciences, but rose to 14th after his interview.

"The reasons why he was kept in the competition were that we were aware that he came from a school with limited resources to prepare him for the admissions process and also because, despite the predicted grades, his previous academic record was very promising," Dr Hughes explained.

"In the end, neither we nor any other college could find a place for him.

"While we can appreciate his and his school's disappointment, places are limited and we cannot find space for every marginal candidate," she said.

St Andrews

Mr Sinclair, who applied to study natural sciences, has now taken up a place at St Andrews University to study physics.

He said he thought his comprehensive school background could have been a factor in the college's decision and accused Magdalene of having "an elitist attitude".

Last week, Mr Sinclair, from Cromarty, Ross-shire, said: "I found I wasn't given any chance to show what I was capable of and it was really quite poor, to be honest.

"I don't think I could have done anything more to get in there. I feel let down about the people down there."

His case was taken up by his MP, the Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, who promised to write to the college asking for an explanation.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
Alive & kicking?
Does university elitism still exist?
See also:

22 Oct 01 | Scotland
14 Aug 01 | Scotland
26 May 00 | UK Education
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