Cambridge accused of ‘social engineering’ as public school pupils now more likely to get places

Mr Orr-Ewing says he has been told by Oxford insiders that admissions tutors will ‘beat each other’ if they haven’t offered places to students placed in the ‘most favored’ category who come from private schools and have not benefited from a scholarship.

He says Keystone Tutors’ job isn’t to “teach tips and tricks.” Instead, “it’s much more about exposing inquisitive minds to really difficult things over a long period of time and making them intellectually irresistible.”

“What they really want to avoid is maybe the kind of person I was applying to Harrow from Oxford, who was a ‘decent, bright enough, all in’ candidate, but was wrong. continue and necessarily be an academic or get a first class degree.

Admissions tutors want to ‘see the light’ behind applicants’ eyes

Sarah Alakija, an admissions expert from Oxbridge, says she helped a pupil from Winchester in the last admissions round who was rejected from Oxford, Durham, LSE and Warwick with 3 A* predictions and a ” great personal statement”.

“There was no explanation I could give his parents for this. We made sure he was applying to a college with centuries-old links to Winchester and that didn’t work out either.

She says there’s “nothing wrong” with the Oxbridge app support that schools like Winchester, Eton and St Paul’s already offer their pupils, but “parents are so scared they feel that they will do anything to get the extra edge.” Ms. Alakija is focused on helping students develop a deep level of understanding and passion for the topics they are applying for prior to interviews.

She asked a Cambridge admissions tutor at a recent event what her favorite candidate looked like. “The response was ‘when I interview someone, I want to see the light behind their eyes when they talk about the subject.’ I think that’s what you can’t prepare.

Cambridge professor speaks out on how the college admissions process puts private school students at a disadvantage


The pendulum as it currently stands has certainly swung too far against private schools. Cambridge has opted to voluntarily include public school admissions targets as part of its own targets to be achieved by 2024. admissions in the state this year and 71.6 percent last year. while self-imposed targets were 66.1% and 64.6% respectively.

As so often happens, this success in easily exceeding our goals did not lead to a deep reflection on the process or a detailed study of student results. Instead, it just created a new baseline that we are now being told we need to “improve” on more.

A new “access and participation plan” should be submitted with more ambitious statistics.

The upshot of all of this is that there is indeed a disadvantage for privately trained students. It is of course not true that a truly brilliant student in a public school would ever be blocked from entering. But it is true that, even if it is a question of paying attention only to the characteristics “indicated” in the profile of a person (socio-economic data, low university attendance, postal zone, having been taken care of, free school meals, etc.), having attended an independent school may well play a negative role.

This tends to happen after the strongest applicants (from any school background) have secured a spot: a college admissions tutor, eager to achieve his or her goal. is self taxed, will be aware of the proportion of state independents at this stage of the admissions process. , and may find that more offers are needed for public school applicants to reach the (in practice arbitrary) target figure. Thus, at this point, two applicants who scored equally are likely to be disaggregated on the basis of schooling, so that public school is considered “better” for the targets. This may mask the fact that the independent school applicant is a full-scholarship student from a disadvantaged background, while the public school applicant may be from one of the sixth-form schools. or state grammars the better off. Thus, a coarse metric ends up disadvantageizing those who are potentially equally (or perhaps even more) deserving.

This really comes to a head in the winter and summer pools, when students who failed to gain a place in the college they applied to (winter) or who failed to gain the grades from their offer (summer) are picked up by other colleges. eager to fill their places. It almost always happens that the admissions tutor who oversees these decisions for his colleges finds himself at this point in a position where he feels he can only take few or perhaps even zero students from independent schools.

This essentially excludes deserving applicants (which is what the winter pool is supposed to consider) at this crucial stage of the process, not for academic reasons but due to school decisions made, presumably, by their parents. If we indeed decide that privileged candidates with excellent education are also saddled with the burden of that privilege, then the process begins to look dirty, unfair and, on an intellectual level, indefensible. Meanwhile, very wealthy foreign applicants are welcome, as they pay significantly higher fees and do not infringe on local student statistics.

That said, the vast majority of academics strive to take the best applicants – by which we mean those who seem to have the greatest potential to thrive in the course, which is not exactly the same as those who are successful best in their A-levels. and entrance exams. We seek to judge each applicant on their own academic merits, and many of us have not been barred from taking any given applicant because of their school. But if parents have paid to bring a child through, say, Eton, and admissions to that school have halved in the last seven years, the writing may be on the wall for those in independent schools who are not not considered first class.

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