Independent school pupils 7 times more likely to get place at Oxford

Sutton Trust calls for universities to make better use of contextual data in admissions process

Eight top schools and colleges sent as many pupils to Oxford or Cambridge over three years as three-quarters (2,900) of all schools and colleges, according to new analysis of UCAS data published by the Sutton Trust. Specifically, the research identified:

• 8 top schools and colleges sent as many pupils to Oxford or Cambridge over three years as three-quarters (2,900) of all schools and colleges.
• Pupils from independent schools are over twice as a likely to attend a Russell Group university than their peers at comprehensives, with the access gap even greater at Oxbridge (seven times as likely).
• Those from independent schools who apply to Oxbridge and other Russell Group universities are also more likely to win a place than applicants from comprehensive schools.

Access to Advantage analyses university acceptance rates for the 2015-2017 cohorts by school type and region to give a clearer picture of how access to university varies across England. It finds that the eight schools and colleges with the highest number of Oxbridge acceptances has 1,310 between them over a three-year period, while 2,894 with two or fewer acceptances sent just 1,220 pupils to Oxford or Cambridge in the same time period.

Pupils from independent schools are over twice as a likely to attend a Russell Group university than their peers at comprehensives

Over a third (34%) of applications to Oxbridge come from pupils at independent schools, but a larger proportion (42%) of places go to those students. However, while 32% of applications to Oxbridge are from comprehensively educated students, only 25% of those who gain a place are from these schools. 7% of the general population attended a private school, while 18% of those taking A-levels do.

The analysis also finds big regional differences in the proportion of teenagers who gain a place at Oxbridge. Several parts of the country had two or fewer acceptances to Oxbridge from comprehensive schools in the three years the research looked at, including Halton, Knowsley, Lincolnshire, North Lincolnshire, Portsmouth, Rochdale, Rutland, Salford, Southampton and Thurrock.

While 32% of applications to Oxbridge are from comprehensively educated students, only 25% of those who gain a place are from these schools

While some of these gaps are driven by differences in A-level results, today’s research also reveals very different progression rates to top universities for schools with similar exam results. Almost a quarter (23%) of students in independent schools in the top fifth of all schools for exam results applied to Oxbridge, but only 11% of students in comprehensives in the same high achieving group of schools did so. Of those who applied to Oxbridge from schools in the top fifth, 35% were successful from independent schools, but only 28% of those applying from comprehensives were accepted.

The report finds that students accepted from all school types to Oxbridge had similar results on average, equivalent to A*A*A at A level. The Trust is calling for universities to make greater use of contextual data in their admissions process, including reduced grade offers, to recognise the different circumstances faced by applicants.

Of those who applied to Oxbridge from schools in the top fifth, 35% were successful from independent schools, but only 28% of those applying from comprehensives were accepted

Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said today:

“If we are to ensure that all young people, regardless of their background, have a fair chance of getting in to our top universities, we need to address the patchwork of higher education guidance and support. All young people, regardless of what area they grow up in, or what school they go to, should have access to high quality personal guidance that allows them to make the best informed choices about their future.

“The admissions process also needs to change. We have made the case for giving poorer students a break, through contextual admissions, but we also need universities to make it clear what grades these students need to access courses.”

You can read the full report here