Oxford college improves its results by recruiting more state school students

Studies show private school students are less likely to get good results than state school students with the same A-levels

An Oxford college has improved its results dramatically after recruiting more students from state schools.

Mansfield College made over 90 per cent of its offers to state school students, resulting in the number of firsts and 2:1s shooting up and the college climbing Oxford’s “Norrington” league table.

“It shows that we are…not saying let’s let in some poor kids as a charity case…but identifying cleverer people because we are looking more broadly at who might benefit from being here,” Helen Mountfield QC, head of the college, told The Sunday Times.

Mansfield had been at the bottom of the Norrington tables, which rank Oxford’s colleges by degree classification, but shot up since making a conscious effort to recruit students from disadvantaged backgrounds. “We have consistently gone up and this year we are fifth,” said Mountfield.

The improved results run contrary to concerns from private schools that recruiting more disadvantaged students may lead to bright middle class students being “squeezed out”.

Mansfield contrasts with the rest of Oxford, where around 60 per cent of places went to state school pupils last year. Nationally seven per cent of GSCE pupils are privately educated, and 14 per cent at A-level. All but three Russell Group universities failed to recruit enough working class students last year, including Oxford.

The college is seeking out people who “you think, ‘I can teach you to write like a dream. But what I can’t teach you is ideas’,” said Mountfield.

“So we’re just trying to find the people who might be slightly fumbling for it, who haven’t been taken to the theatre all through their childhood, or seen people reading broadsheet newspapers.”

The phenomenon isn’t limited to one Oxford college. Research in 2015 found state school students performed better at university than private school students with the same A-level results.

Going back to 2002, a University of Warwick study found that “on average, a male (female) graduate who attended an Independent school is 6.5 (5.4) percentage points less likely to obtain a `good’ degree than is a student who attended an LEA (that is, state-sector) school, ceteris paribus.”

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