Spare a thought for the upper middle classes. Buying a private-school education in the UK used to be enough to get into Oxbridge or at the very least become prime minister, but the tide may be (slightly) turning. New research shows private-school pupils are up to a third more likely to get into Cambridge if they move to a state sixth form. Students who stayed at private schools for A-levels had an acceptance rate of 19% last year. But those who moved from a fee-paying school to a grammar school or sixth-form college had a success rate of about 25%. (Similar data from Oxford wasn’t available.)
Iain Mansfield, head of education at Policy Exchange, told the Telegraph that the figures suggest universities are discriminating against fee-paying families. “This demonstrates why universities should be selecting on ability, not discriminating based on a child’s background.” If Iain’s mad now, wait until he hears about these things called private schools.
This latest research reflects the wider trend of rising numbers of state-school pupils getting Oxbridge places in recent years. In 2022, the proportion of places offered to state-school students was 68% at Oxford and 72.5% at Cambridge; almost a decade earlier it was just 57% and 61% respectively. That’s definite progress. But it is less so when you consider that 83% of A-level students go to state schools.