Oxbridge 'elitism'

Published 09 June 2014

Interest in the background of students who go to Oxford and Cambridge is very longstanding. The 1852 Royal Commissions on both universities identified access by poorer students as an important and longstanding issue. The debate about elitism at Oxford and Cambridge has tended to focus on a single indicator -the proportion of students accepted from state schools- and particularly whether it has gone up or down in the latest year. This gives a limited view only. A fuller picture needs more context, including longer term trends in this indicator, rates of entry for other under-represented groups, data on other prestige universities and a better understanding of the types of state schools that send pupils to Oxbridge. Both universities now take more than half of their entrants from state schools, if overseas entrants are excluded. These rates are generally increasing, but the historical data shows that progress has been slow.

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Interest in the background of students who go to Oxford and Cambridge is very longstanding. The 1852 Royal Commissions on both universities identified access by poorer students as an important and longstanding issue. The debate about elitism at Oxford and Cambridge has tended to focus on a single indicator -the proportion of students accepted from state schools- and particularly whether it has gone up or down in the latest year. This gives a limited view only. A fuller picture needs more context, including longer term trends in this indicator, rates of entry for other under-represented groups, data on other prestige universities and a better understanding of the types of state schools that send pupils to Oxbridge. Both universities now take more than half of their entrants from state schools, if overseas entrants are excluded. These rates are generally increasing, but the historical data shows that progress has been slow.

Commons Briefing papers SN00616

Author: Paul Bolton

Topics: Students, Higher education

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