Page last updated at 13:20 GMT, Thursday, 5 June 2008 14:20 UK

Oxbridge takes fewer state pupils

Oxford says it is doing its utmost to attract state school pupils

Oxford and Cambridge have failed to raise the share of students they take from state schools, new figures show.

At Oxford, some 53% of first year undergraduates were from state schools, while at Cambridge the figure was slightly higher at 57.6% in 2006-7.

Both universities recorded slight rises in the proportion of privately educated students they accepted on the previous year and missed government benchmarks.

The government said more working class pupils now went to university overall.

The Oxbridge figures emerged in the latest annual statistics on the issue from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

It showed there were slightly more students from state schools and that there more undergraduates were coming from areas which do not normally send many students to university.

Both Oxford and Cambridge say they are working hard to increase the number of state school and working class pupils they accept.

We are disappointed by the figures on admissions
Dr Geoff Parks
Cambridge University

A spokeswoman for Oxford University said: "For our part, we are doing our utmost to encourage academic ambition from a young age by working with students from 11 up, and by working closely with parents and teachers.

"One element of the picture is making sure that those who do study at Oxford from all groups, especially under-represented groups, are well supported and reach their potential.

"One of the lowest drop-out rates in the country indicates that our efforts in this respect are bearing fruit."


Director of Admissions for the Cambridge Colleges, Dr Geoff Parks, said: "We are disappointed by the figures on admissions. Our research shows that the main cause is a decline in applications from state sector schools and colleges.

"We remain committed to achieving our widening participation goals and have launched a concerted drive to regain the lost momentum, including the simplification of our admissions procedure to encourage more applicants from the maintained sector."

According to government targets, Oxford was expected to meet what is called a "benchmark" of admitting 76.7% from state schools while Cambridge should have admitted 77.4%.

But most top universities argue that the benchmarks are unrealistic because of the way they are calculated.

The benchmarks are based on the percentage of state pupils who get 360 Ucas tariff points or more - the equivalent of three As at A-level.

An Oxford University spokeswoman said: "Tariff points can be gained from a very wide range of qualifications, including sports leadership awards and speech and drama examinations.

"We recognise the value of students getting these qualifications for their self-development; however, admissions to Oxford University is based on performance in academic subjects at full A-level that relate to our degree courses."

Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said there had been "forward progress" among our "most selective universities" but that the rate of improvement was slower.

Last year, the Warden of Oxford's New College, Professor Alan Ryan, said the university was doing all it could to seek out plausible state pupils.

But he said rich parents could buy the educational advantage that led their children to get the right grades.

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