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Thursday, June 10, 1999 Published at 23:15 GMT 00:15 UK


Oxford seeks fairer admissions tests

Oxford is striving to widen its appeal

Intelligence tests could be used as a fairer system than interviews or A levels for entrance to Oxford University.

The BBC's Mike Baker: "Oxford is targeting state school pupils"
A report into widening access to the university has suggested that tests of "core intellectual skills" could be fairer to students from state schools, who might underperform in interviews or A levels compared with pupils from independent schools.

Oxford students are still more likely to come from independent schools than the state sector - in the past three years, 45% of students have come from independent schools, compared with 37% from state schools.

[ image: The Vice Chancellor, Dr Colin Lucas:
The Vice Chancellor, Dr Colin Lucas: "Forget your negative ideas"
The report, by senior members of the university including the vice chancellor, is Oxford's latest attempt to redress that imbalance.

It suggests that many state school pupils do not apply to Oxford because they do not expect to get the A level grades they assume they will need.

The report says the current admissions criteria of A levels and interviews "may not be enough upon which to base a fair admissions system".

Interviews 'too aggressive'

Interviews are believed to favour more confident and articulate pupils from private schools, while it is suggested that tests might draw a more objective picture of pupils' abilities.

The report also says there are concerns about unnecessarily aggressive interviews, which can confirm state schools' suspicions about Oxford's image of social exclusivity.

But the interviews will not be abandoned - instead there will be training for those conducting them.

Tests would be considered as a way of finding the most able pupils after the reform of the A level system, when students will take more subjects, but in less detail. It has been claimed that the broader-based curriculum will be less stretching to the most gifted pupils.

'You can do it' - Blunkett

The use of A levels for admissions is also said to put some state school pupils at a disadvantage, because of the limited number of A level subjects offered by some state schools.

[ image: Grasp the opportunities, says the education secretary]
Grasp the opportunities, says the education secretary
A proposal for introducing admission quotas based on social class or ethnic background was considered by the Oxford working party but rejected.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, wants to encourage more state school pupils to apply for places at Oxford and at Cambridge.

Introducing an Oxford University video aimed at widening access, he said: "Never ever think you can't do it.

"Whatever your background, wherever you're from, whatever school you're at, it really can matter and I want school and further education sixth-form colleges to encourage every young person to think what they may do and to grasp those opportunities."

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