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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 19:18 GMT 20:18 UK
Cambridge reject in 'elitism' claim
Gary Sinclair
Gary Sinclair is now studying at St Andrews
Cambridge University has been accused of elitism after rejecting a gifted student from a Scottish school.

Gary Sinclair failed to win a place at Magdalene College despite gaining some of best exams results in Scotland.

His mother said the decision was "scandalous" and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has said he will take up the 18-year-old's case.


I found I wasn't given any chance to show what I was capable of and it was really quite poor, to be honest

Gary Sinclair
Mr Sinclair, who attended Fortrose Academy on the Black Isle, said he believed elitism was at the root of Magdalene's decision.

But that claim has been refuted by a spokesman for Magdalene College.

Mr Sinclair, from Cromarty, Ross-shire, 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.

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

He said he thought that his comprehensive school background could have been a factor in the college's decision, and claimed that Magdalene had "an elitist attitude".

Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy has pledged to champion the teenager's cause

He said: "One of the first questions that I was asked was: 'Do you come from a comprehensive school and have they prepared you for this interview?'.

"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 mother Ingrid said: "I think it's scandalous in a way that we have seen this in spite of Gary's qualifications.

"He's gone to a nice place in St Andrews. We'll have to see how it's going to work out, but it should be as good as anywhere."

Straightforward inquiry

A spokeswoman for Mr Kennedy, who is MP for Ross, Skye and Inverness West, said: "Charles Kennedy intends to write to the master of one of the Cambridge colleges because one of his constituents who has had excellent results has been rejected.

"It is a straightforward inquiry on Charles' part.

"His view is that it is very important that we establish why such an excellent student is rejected and he is looking forward to hearing from the master of the college concerned."

However, a spokesman for the college insisted there was no bias against state school pupils.

"The college sympathises with the many good candidates who fail to obtain a place each year," he said.

"There are about three candidates for each place we have available.

"There is no bias in favour or against any particular school type and we do our best to make decisions which are fair on the basis of the information available."

See also:

14 Aug 01 | Scotland
Candidates consider their future
26 May 00 | Education
Oxford and Cambridge: Student profile
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