The chancellor of the University of Oxford entered the debate on university admissions this week, saying that it was "as offensive" to suggest that Oxford was biased against independent schools as to suggest that it was biased towards them.
Lord Patten, the Conservative former cabinet minister, said that his university was "trying to do the best we can with often imperfect yardsticks" to find those with the best academic ability and potential, which was why it had started admissions tests.
However, he told the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference that Oxford was "never going to tell those who would like to study at the university that we are content to take the second best" because that would be "bad for them and suicidal for us".
Saying that social inclusion was a concern for universities, he noted that Newcastle University had run summer schools that allowed successful students to enter on to university courses with slightly lower grades. "The record so far suggests that the students who come on that basis do as well as the others in their degree courses," he said.
Lord Patten said there was "no chance" of Oxbridge hitting access targets if the proportion of students getting A grades in traditional academic A-level subjects at state schools stayed the same.