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State-school entries to Cambridge fall

ONLY ONE in four of the undergraduates who started at Cambridge University this autumn came from a comprehensive school. Slightly more came from the country's 166 remaining grammar schools and from sixth- form or further education colleges.

Together, these candidates from the maintained sector made up only half of the home intake to the university.

University admissions dons were this week facing the fact that the proportion of successful applicants from maintained schools and colleges seems to be stubbornly refusing to rise. Indeed, the number fell very slightly this year, from 1,453 to 1,414.

"The past three years have been level, without a significant change either way," said Susan Stobbs, director of admissions for the Cambridge colleges.

She pointed out that it was too early to see the effect of the university's 1998 initiatives to attract more state school applicants such as the "Put Yourself in the Picture" poster, but vowed that the university would continue its efforts to broaden access.

These include a doubling in the size of its summer school for potential state school applicants next year.

She also said the figure for successful candidates from comprehensive schools was probably an underestimate as many bright students were "snapped up" after completing GCSEs by grant-maintained and independent schools.

Oxford, meanwhile, has recovered from last year's embarrassing blip when the share of successful applicants from the state sector fell to its lowest in recent years, at 41.6 per cent of the total, against 49 per cent from independent schools. This year, it recovered to 43.8 per cent, against 47.3 per cent from the independent sector.

As in previous years, candidates from independent schools were far more likely to get in to both universities.

While independent schools provided only 36 per cent of the applicants to Cambridge, for instance, they accounted for 45 per cent of those accepted. Pupils from the maintained sector made up 48 per cent of the applicants but only 46 per cent of those accepted (the remainder were overseas students).

This is partly a question of A-level results. Nearly 90 per cent of the successful applicants to Cambridge this year gained at least three grade As at A-level (excluding general studies) - and 4,000 of those who were rejected had at least two grade As and a B.

Although the independent sector only educates 7 per cent of all pupils, it educates 20 per cent of sixth-formers and accounts for nearly a third of the applicants getting into university with at least one A and two B grades.

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