Sunday, 8 July 2012

Oxford 'admitting more students from poor backgrounds'

Oxford is admitting more teenagers from poor performing state schools and deprived backgrounds amid government pressure to create a more diverse student body, it has emerged. 

 By , Education Editor

New figures show a 75 per cent increase in offers made to disadvantaged students who were fast-tracked for interview at the elite university this year.
It was also revealed that more than four-in-10 teenagers who applied after attending an Oxford summer school – set up for bright pupils from poor areas – have been given a provisional place in 2012.
This was twice as high as the average offer rate for other students.
The disclosure underlines the lengths to which the university is now going to recruit bright candidates from “under-represented groups”.
It follows a series of high-profile attacks by the Coalition on Britain’s most selective universities.
Last year, Nick Clegg accused Oxford and Cambridge of being effectively biased against poor pupils, saying they had to ensure “British society is better reflected” in their admissions to justify state funding.

Universities are now being ordered to set targets for the number of disadvantaged students being admitted to ensure the poor are not deterred by tuition fees of up to £9,000.
It has prompted concerns that universities are being forced to place "widening access" above maintaining high academic standards.

But Prof Andrew Hamilton, the Oxford vice-chancellor, said the latest figures showed the university was “passionately committed to attracting talented students whatever their circumstances”.
“By offering the most generous financial support in the country, we have made it more likely that those from under-represented socio-economic backgrounds will choose Oxford,” he said. “We hope our message is getting across: If you have the ability, Oxford will remove all barriers.”
Currently, Oxford uses a special system to ensure bright applicants from poor backgrounds are “flagged” up to admissions tutors during the applications process – ensuring they receive a fair interview.

Students gain a flag if their school is below the national average at GCSE or A-level, if they have been in care for more than three months or come from a deprived postcode.
According to figures, 573 candidates were shortlisted for interviews after being “flagged” by the university. Of those, 185 have won offers this year. This compares with 106 who were given offers in 2011 – representing a rise of 75 per cent in just 12 months.

Separate figures show the number of students being given conditional offers after attending Oxford summer schools – staged each summer for pupils from schools and colleges “which historically have had limited progression to Oxford”.

According to data, some 444 students who attended a summer school went on to apply to the university this year. Of those, 185 – or 41 per cent – received an offer.
This was twice as high as the acceptance rate for other students, the university said.
In total, 17,243 people applied to Oxford for entry in 2012 and 3,536 received the offer of a place – a 20.5 per cent success rate.

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