Sutton and Oxford 1

November 2, 2007

Alan Ryan misinterprets a number of key findings of Sutton Trust research (Opinion, 26 October).

A report by the trust did identify 3,000 state school students who each year have the grades to enter one of 13 leading research universities (including Oxbridge, but not just Oxbridge, as Ryan states) but do not end up at these institutions.

This analysis from 2004 is based on the benchmarks devised by the Higher Education Funding Council for England and does consider the subject mix of applicants: crucially, the 3,000 "missing" students have the requisite grades in the right A-level subjects. The same report also found that state school pupils need, on average, two grades higher at A level to stand the same chance of attending one of these 13 universities as their independently educated counterparts. When surveyed, teachers reported that many state school pupils felt they would not get into, or fit into, these institutions.

We are unaware of evidence showing that "almost everyone who gets three As at A-level in the appropriate subjects applies to Oxbridge", as Ryan states. What we do know is that previous Hefce benchmarks for Oxbridge based on A levels and subject mix showed that two thirds of admissions should be from state school students - well above current levels.

None of our research has shown any bias by admissions staff at these universities or Oxbridge. Nor have we ever claimed it did so.

Lee Elliot Major, Director of research, The Sutton Trust.

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