Oxbridge targets 'cannot be met': Ryan

October 26, 2007

Oxford and Cambridge universities will continue to miss their targets for admitting state school pupils "for the foreseeable future", the head of New College, Oxford, argues in today's Times Higher , writes Rebecca Attwood. In his regular column, Alan Ryan defends both universities' records on admissions following a flurry of negative headlines and argues that Oxbridge already gets "just about every plausible applicant" from both state and private schools.

Oxford presently takes 54 per cent of its undergraduate intake from state schools and its target is to reach 62 per cent of applications within five years. A report last week from the Institute for Public Policy Research said that on current progress this would not be met until 2016.

But Professor Ryan says it "takes no research at all" to see that neither Oxford nor Cambridge will meet their targets "for the foreseeable future". The current situation, he says, will remain as long as the proportion of students obtaining A grades in traditional, "academic" A-level subjects in the state and private sectors stays as it is.

Meanwhile, a report this week from the Higher Education Funding Council for England warns that universities need to do more to develop a stronger understanding of the communities in which they operate if they are to reach more young people from lower social class backgrounds.

The report, Young Participation in Higher Education in the Parliamentary Constituencies of Birmingham Hodge Hill, Bristol South, Nottingham North and Sheffield Brightside, examines social attitudes to university in deprived areas. It recommends that universities should develop "more focused and relevant interventions" to reach out to disadvantaged young people.

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