British universities will lose bright state school pupils to America unless they overhaul their admissions systems, the leader of a head teachers' union warned this week.
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, was speaking after news that a sixth-former at Monkseaton Community High School in North Tyneside, rejected by Magdalen College, Oxford, had secured a scholarship to Harvard.
Mr Hart said: "It is still very unusual for people to apply to American universities but this points the way forward. Harvard and other Ivy League universities operate an admissions system that we ought to move to if we are to get more state school students applying to university.
"If the elite universities here are not able to admit ... the brightest state school pupils, it will inevitably encourage many to try for a university abroad."
According to the Institute of International Education in New York, more than 7,700 students from the UK studied in the US last academic year, just over 3 per cent more than in the previous year. Of these, nearly 60 per cent were undergraduates.
No reliable figures exist for the number funded by scholarships although Todd Davis, research director at the institute, said it was likely that most British undergraduates would pay for themselves through private income.
But this varies from institution to institution. Harvard, which saw applications from British students increase by 22 per cent this year, offers some kind of scholarship to 70 per cent of its students.
Paul Kelley, head teacher at Monkseaton and an American, said more British pupils would apply to the US because of the opportunity to receive funding covering all their costs, from tuition fees to accommodation.
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