Cambridge University is taking a far higher percentage of its students from the state sector than Oxford University - and the gap appears to be widening.
Figures released by Cambridge this week show that 58 per cent of UK students accepted into Cambridge in 2005 were from state schools - compared with 57 per cent the year before. The Oxford admissions figures, released late last year, show that in 2005, 51 per cent of UK students were from state schools, compared with 53 per cent the year before.
Cambridge also attracts a higher percentage of its applications from the state sector. For entry in 2005, 65 per cent of Cambridge's 10,3 applications from the UK were from state schools, while the comparable figure for Oxford was 57 per cent. However, the universities have very similar success rates - around a quarter of all applications to Oxbridge from state schools were successful last year compared with about a third of applications from independent schools.
A spokesman for Oxford said: "It is hard to explain the differences in state school admissions between the two universities. We do similar amounts of outreach work and access work."
She said that many state school pupils applied to very popular subjects, such as economics, management and medicine, making it harder to get in.
Geoff Parks, director of admissions for the Cambridge Colleges, said that the sole criterion for admission to Cambridge was academic ability. "No one should be deterred from applying here because of misplaced fears that their background will count against them, be it 'advantaged', 'disadvantaged' or somewhere in between," he said.
Cambridge's success in enrolling state school students bodes well for its access agreement with the Office for Fair Access. Cambridge is committed to increasing actual admissions from state schools by about 3 per cent by 2010. Oxford has made a commitment to increase applications from the state sector from 57 per cent to 62 per cent.
The Cambridge statistics also show that the percentage of non-UK applications rose slightly to 25 per cent, compared with 22 per cent in 2004. There was a jump of more than 3 per cent in non-UK students accepted - 17 per cent of acceptances, compared with 13 per cent in 2004.