Places, please

Oxford University says it has around four "extremely bright" applicants for every place. The figures for 2006 entry - the year for which Matthew Holehouse applied - are not yet available, but for 2005 Oxford received 12,496 applications for 3,214 places, writes Clare Sanders.

It is getting harder and harder to get in to Oxford. Applications have risen by a third over the past 11 years, while the number of places has remained roughly the same. Applications from state school students have gone up particularly steeply - by nearly 40 per cent in the past six years compared with 16 per cent for independent schools. For 2005 entry, Oxford accepted 25 per cent of those applying from state schools, compared with 27 per cent the year before. The percentage accepted from independent schools was 32 - an almost identical figure to 2004.

Overall, 51 per cent of UK students came from the state sector in 2005 and 49 per cent from the independent sector. At Queen's, the Oxford college that accepted Matthew Holehouse, 48 per cent of applications for 2005 entry came from state school students, with 44 per cent of its offers going to the state sector.

Over at Cambridge the latest figures available are for 2004 entry, when 14,684 students applied for 3,296 places. Overall, 56 per cent of successful UK students were from state and 44 per cent from independent schools.

Success rates vary between the two sectors. For 2004 entry, 23 per cent of those applying from state schools were accepted by Cambridge, compared with 25 per cent in 2003. The percentage of independent school pupils accepted was 28 per cent, compared with 32 per cent the year before.

For further information go and Clare Sanders is a journalist on The Times Higher Education Supplement

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