Byrne's suggestion would lead to significant cuts to the number of private school admissionsVarsity

Dorothy Byrne, the newly appointed president of Murray Edwards College, has called on the University of Cambridge to become 93% state-educated to better represent the UK.

Byrne has called on the University to become more representative of society as a whole - a suggestion which would lead to significant cuts to the number of private school admissions.

In Byrne’s first interview as head of Murray Edwards College, she stated: “I understand that will mean that fewer students from top public schools like Eton, Harrow and Westminster will go to Cambridge but luckily there are more than 100 fantastic other universities private school pupils can go to.”

She continued that privately-educated students “will have the added advantage of meeting people who are not like them” if they were to go to a different university, arguing that “private school students need to get over their obsession with getting into Oxford and Cambridge.”

Byrne also suggested that it would benefit private school students to “meet more diverse people” and even commented that “Boris Johnson and David Cameron would have benefited from going to Sheffield University [rather than Oxford].”

Zak Coleman, President of the Cambridge University Student Union, took to Twitter in support of Byrne: “Great to see Dorothy Byrne [...] taking a strong stance on breaking the unfair grip of elite public schools on Oxbridge admissions.”

Coleman added that “we also need to be critical of the category ‘state school’, where elite grammar schools and comprehensives in leafy, upper-middle class post codes (like my secondary school) are still hugely overrepresented at Cambridge compared with those in more deprived areas.”

Several leaders of private schools were “disappointed” with her comments. Neil Roskilly, vice-president of the Independent Schools Association, said: “Any bias against particular sections of society should not be welcomed. Selection should be on academic merit alone and not on any perceived bias against any section of society.”

Roskilly stated that selection procedures should be “blind to background” and criticised Byrne for naming individual schools.

Recent efforts to increase the accessibility of the University include the new Foundation Year scheme, which will admit 50 students with lower A-level results (the equivalent of BBB) to a Foundation Year to help prepare them for a full Cambridge degree. Murray Edwards is one of the thirteen colleges admitting students under this programme.


Mountain View

Cambridge to admit record proportion of state-educated students

Last year, Cambridge welcomed a record-breaking 70.6% of state school pupils, and this number is expected to increase to between 71 and 72% this year.

Byrne secured her position as Murray Edward’s president in December 2020, having previously been the Editor-at-Large at Channel 4; this week marks her first week in the role.

A University spokesperson stated, “The University is committed to widening participation, and to achieving an intake that is reflective of UK society and providing equality of educational opportunity while studying at Cambridge.

“Our objectives are to admit a student body in which no group is under-represented, and to eliminate any gaps between such groups in continuation, attainment and progression. We admit students on individual merit, regardless of background.”