Government report: Parts of Oxbridge “falling far behind” in state school admissions
Colleges praised and shamed in annual social mobility report
It won’t come as a shock to most that Oxbridge has a disproportionate number of private school students. But a new government report – by The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission – has zeroed in on Cambridge’s failure to make the same advances seen at other universities.
The scathing report reveals that some Oxbridge colleges make “less than half” of their offers to applicants from the state sector. While more diverse colleges still give one-quarter of their offers to privately-educated kids, this group makes up only make up 7% of the population.
With parts of Oxbridge “falling far behind” access targets, it’s clear that specific colleges have a lot to answer for. Robinson is criticised as being one of the worst performers across the whole of Oxbridge, with just 47% of those accepted coming from state schools.
Robinson Access Officer Elle Shea told The Tab that it’s “unsurprising” that Robinson has performed so poorly given that it’s a “pooling college” with a “lack of direct applicants”. Therefore, applicants from state schools are “not encouraged” in the same way.
This explanation, though, sits uneasily with Churchill’s position at the top of the table. Churchill comes out on top in terms of the percentage of their state school students, despite one-third of their intake being pooled.
Despite Robinson’s dismal diversity, Cambridge as a whole has achieved more than Oxford. Three-fifths of the top five state school recruiting colleges are Cambridge, with Churchill, Girton and Homerton only accepting around 30% of its intake from private schools.
And while the proportion of dropouts overall is very low, those entering Cambridge from disadvantaged backgrounds are still 2.5 times more likely to drop out.
Kings, despite having the reputation for not wanting to admit too many posh people and proudly hanging a Communist flag above their bar, does not feature in the top 5 most socially diverse colleges.
So why does Churchill fare so much better than Robinson? We spoke to Churchill’s Access Officer Natasha Michael, who said that “student enthusiasm” for access schemes has been a big help for the college.
The master of Churchill took to Twitter to celebrate Churchill’s diversity:
— Athene Donald (@AtheneDonald) December 17, 2015
It is also reported that just 7.2% of students in both Cambridge and Oxford are from the lowest socio-economic class bracket. This is a major issue considering that these two universities are fertile recruiting grounds for employers.
An investigation last year found that there were more ex-Eton students at Oxbridge than pupils on free school meals and has fueled concerns that increased state school admissions can be too hastily celebrated. The majority of those students come from the best state schools in the country and schools located in expensive catchment areas.
The report does, however, praise Oxbridge admissions for their increased consideration of personal circumstances – as when a young person has attended a poor-performing state school or has had to act as a carer.
This is highlighted as a practice that should be “encouraged” and “continued” and it remains to be seen whether or not it will have any real impact on the state of state school access in the long run.