Oxford and Cambridge reject proposal to create colleges exclusively for state school students

Staff say this would lead to social division and ‘ghetto-isation’


Oxford and Cambridge have rejected proposals to improve access to their universities by creating colleges exclusively for under-represented students.

Andrew Adonis, a former Labour education minister, outlined a plan for Oxbridge colleges to recruit from the thousands of schools with few, if any, successful applicants.

Writing in The Guardian, Lord Adonis compared the colleges to those created for women in the 19th Century and said they had the potential to transform the culture of the unis in the long term.

"The right response is to significantly expand the number of Oxbridge places available for the brightest teenagers from the 3,000 'non-Oxbridge' state schools and colleges, which make up about three-quarters of all schools and colleges," Adonis wrote.

"Many leading figures in Oxford and Cambridge know the status quo is unjustifiable and unsustainable. They are waiting for a new approach. Here it is."

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The universities have said they would rather focus on their existing schemes to widen participation, which they say are a success and lead to more state school and ethnic minority students.

However, The Tab recently revealed that 18 colleges admitted less than five students from disadvantaged postcode per year on average over the past three years.

Senior staff at both Oxford and Cambridge also fear the reforms proposed by Adonis could lead to social division and even "ghetto-isation".

Prof Martin Williams, Oxford’s pro-vice-chancellor for education, said: "Oxford colleges were once segregated on the basis of gender and we don’t want to create new divisions on any grounds.

"We share Lord Adonis’s aspiration to ensure the opportunities of an Oxford education are open to all talented students but his plan does not offer the across-the-board change we are looking for."

Mr Williams said more offers to state school students have just been made than ever before, at 63 per cent in total, with a rise of nearly 4 per cent of offers to the most socially disadvantaged groups over the last six years.

A spokesperson for Cambridge said the uni was aiming to raise half a billion pounds to spend on outreach work and accessibility, and they admitted more state school pupils than ever before in 2017.

Freedom of Information requests submitted by The Telegraph last October showed disadvantaged students are seven and six per cent less likely to get first class degrees at Oxford and Cambridge respectively.

The Tab's 10x Campaign on fairness in uni admissions is named after how much more likely privileged students are to progress to a top uni. If you want to contribute to The Tab's 10x Campaign with a personal story or news tip, please email campaigns@thetab.com.

Our staff and students also offering free advice and help students from non-selective state schools with their personal statements ahead of the UCAS deadline. More details can be found here.

Featured image credit: Philip Halling

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