Figure it out

January 1, 1999

One can have such fun with figures. You reported on the proportions of UK undergraduates from various sources who registered at Oxford, Cambridge and the London School of Economics ("Oxford raises its state school intake", THES, December 18). Mixing up two different factors - educational selection and the ability to pay - is bound to produce some confusion.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service figures for 1997 and 1998 show the LSE's proportion of new UK undergraduates from independent schools as 35.2 per cent and 33.8 per cent respectively. By "independent" we mean "fee-paying". This compares with the Oxbridge figure of 46-47 per cent. The LSE's figure is by no means unexpected given the very high A-level grades required for admission and the fact these are obtained disproportionately by students at independent schools. We are aware this is an unsatisfactory position and want even more good applicants from state schools, but please do not blame us for the historic difference between the two sectors.

One cannot be entirely sure what was in the mind of the MP who asked about selective schools, still somewhat quaintly called grammar schools. They are not, however, fee-paying schools. In 1998 10.5 per cent of our England intake came from these. Perhaps this can be put into context by reporting that 26.2 per cent came from Further Education Funding Council-supported colleges.

But having said all this I must leave it to others to draw conclusions.

George Kiloh

Academic registrar

London School of Economics

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