Come clean on school backgrounds

November 21, 1997

ANNE Campbell criticises Cambridge for an admissions system which gives "half the undergraduate places available each year to the 9 per cent of students" who have been to independent schools (THES, October 31). Such a juxtaposition of figures has great emotive force but is not a sound analysis of the real situation.

In fact 18.5 per cent of all United Kingdom university entrants who take GCE A level do so from independent rather than state schools, and the proportion of entrants from independent schools increases to 31 per cent for those with three grade As and above. Since these are national figures, the Cambridge ratio of independent to state schools entry cannot be far adrift from that of other major universities, and, indeed, this was suggested in Andrew Adonis's article "Class apartheid" (THES, October 10).

For many years Oxford and Cambridge have published the information about the school background of their students. Other universities have this information and they should put it into the public domain. This would then allow for a better and more accurate discussion of the effectiveness of admissions policies and it would also help in the important task of making the best use of our educational resources and the talents of our young people.

Gordon Johnson

Wolfson College, Cambridge

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