The number of state-educated students at Cambridge increased from 62.3% to 70% between 2015 and 2020Louis Ashworth

Research by the Sunday Times has demonstrated that more state school students are receiving offers to study at Oxbridge than their counterparts educated at some of the UK’s top private schools.

The research found that schools such as Eton, King’s College School (KCS) and St Paul’s Girls’ School have all received fewer Oxbridge offers than in previous years. The Sunday Times considers these schools to be “the golden ticket to a top university education.”

Andrew Halls, the headmaster at KCS, told the Sunday Times that 27 students received Oxbridge offers this year, compared to 39 and 48 in 2020 and 2019 respectively. He added that pupils at the school were “now more likely to look at Europe and America than they were before” because they “see the writing on the wall.”

The new analysis follows statistics from 2018 which showed that eight UK schools, of which six were independent fee-paying schools, received as many Oxbridge offers as three-quarters of all schools in the UK.

Halls added: “[Oxford and Cambridge] are two of the most academic universities in the world: they are right to seek out talent from all schools, but it would not be good for the UK if they turn down brilliant children just because they come from top private schools.”

Meanwhile, the number of state school students receiving Oxbridge offers is on the rise: Hills Road Sixth Form, Cambridge, received 69 offers from the two universities this year, with a previous average of 60 between 2015 and 2018.

The number of Eton students receiving offers from Oxford or Cambridge has halved since 2014, with 99 offers in 2014 and 48 this year. Offers to students at St Paul’s Girls’ School have also dropped from 55 to 44 since 2015.

The Sunday Times also reported that the number of state school students has increased, between 2015 and 2020, from 62.3 to 70 per cent at Cambridge, and 55.4 to 68.7 per cent at Oxford.


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The use of contextual offers, which at Cambridge takes the form of a ‘flagging’ system during the application process, has also increased: this allows sixth-form students from low participation areas or schools that have received very few or no Oxbridge offers to have these factors considered by admissions tutors.

Richard Partington, an admissions tutor at Cambridge, told the Sunday Times: “The reality is that there are groups at Cambridge that are massively over-represented.” He continued: “You could focus on Eton and say they are not getting as many kids in as five years ago, or you could look at the London Academy of Excellence — now getting much larger numbers in — or at Brampton Manor.

“Their kids are getting in because they are getting really good A-level grades and are really good students. State schools are getting better.”

In January, the University announced plans to introduce “foundation year” courses designed to be accessible and free of charge to up to 50 educationally and socially disadvantaged students with BBB grades at A-level from October 2022. Thirteen colleges are expected to participate in the scheme.