Cambridge fails key intake test

December 10, 1999

State school students were even less likely to get into Cambridge University this year than they were last year, despite concerted efforts aimed at improving recruitment from the comprehensive school sector.

Although Cambridge's latest applications and acceptances figures show another increase in total state school entrants, from 46 per cent in 1998 to 47 per cent in 1999, Cambridge is still way behind the sector at large, which draws 58 per cent of its students from the state sector.

Cambridge still draws 43 per cent of all its students from private schools, compared with 12 per cent in the sector as a whole.

The increase in the number of state school entrants - 47 more state students joined this year - is largely a result of increased applications from the state sector. But state school applicants are still much less likely to succeed than their private school counterparts.

In 1998, .2 per cent of Cambridge's 5,198 state school applicants were accepted for a place. This year, 26.7 per cent of state applicants gained a place. This compares with a 35 per cent success rate for private school applicants.

"We continue to believe very strongly in attracting the most able students to Cambridge, whatever their social and educational backgrounds," said Cambridge's director of admissions, Susan

Stobbs. But she blamed the disparities on state school students' continuing reluctance to apply for places. "We continue to come across schools which for one reason or another are reluctant to encourage their pupils to apply to us when we know they would do very well here," she said.

New data on home students from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service showed that while Cambridge accepted 47 per cent of its home students from private schools, it took 35 per cent from non-selective state schools, 10 per cent from colleges including sixth form colleges, and 7 per cent from grammar schools.

The figures also showed a major bias towards students from London and the Southeast - the only two UK regions where a disproportionately large number of applicants were successful. Cambridge took just 3 per cent of its students from the North, reflecting low application figures. But while students from the Southeast and London make up 37 per cent of total applicants, they comprise 43 per cent of entrants.

Ethnic minority recruitment improved, hitting 10 per cent for the first time. The number of black students doubled from 17 in 1998 to 35 in 1999.

Ms Stobbs said that assessment of the social class of applicants by postcode would improve the situation. "We are investigating commissioning a more detailed report into the social class of our applicants by postcode, combined with a postcode analysis on A-level results," she said.

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