Report highlights differences in Oxbridge accessibility

A new Sutton Trust reports has brought attention to the varying levels of accessibility to Oxbridge for school pupils

Eight top schools and colleges sent as many pupils to Oxbridge (Oxford or Cambridge universities) over three years as three-quarters (2,900) of all schools and colleges, according to new analysis of UCAS data published by the Sutton Trust.

Access to Advantage analyses university acceptance rates for the 2015-2017 cohorts by school type and region. It found that the eight schools and colleges with the highest number of Oxbridge acceptances have1,310 between them over a three-year period, while 2,894 with two or fewer acceptances sent 1,220 pupils to Oxford or Cambridge in the same time period.

The report also shows that pupils from independent schools are over twice as a likely to attend a Russell Group university than their peers at comprehensives, with the access gap even greater at Oxbridge – seven times as likely, in fact.

Those from independent schools applying to Oxbridge and other Russell Group universities are also more likely to win a place, with 34% of Oxbridge applications coming from these pupils and 42% of those being placed.

While some of the gaps are driven by differences in A-level results, the research also reveals very different progression rates to top universities for schools with similar exam results. 23% of students in independent schools in the top fifth of all schools for exam results applied to Oxbridge, but only 11% of students in comprehensives in the same high achieving group of schools did so.

The report is recommending that all pupils should receive a guaranteed level of careers advice from professional advisers. To address the regional disparity in university admissions, the Trust says that university access agreements should focus on marginalised geographical areas that are under-represented.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: “If we are to ensure that all young people, regardless of their background, have a fair chance of getting in to our top universities, we need to address the patchwork of higher education guidance and support.

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“All young people, regardless of what area they grow up in, or what school they go to, should have access to high quality personal guidance that allows them to make the best informed choices about their future.

“The admissions process also needs to change. We have made the case for giving poorer students a break through contextual admissions, but we also need universities to make it clear what grades these students need to access courses.”

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