Oxford retains its reputation... ...as a bastion of elitism

21st November 1997 at 00:00
The old debate about the proportions of students from state schools admitted to Oxford and Cambridge has surfaced again (TES, October 31 and November 7), and I wonder how many parents or state schools have had experience similar to those in our family.

One of our children was a scientist (the first in our family), well-taught in his comprehensive school, and deemed likely to get into Cambridge.

One of the colleges offered a place if he achieved three As and a S1. He got the three As, but like many state school children did not do well enough on the S papers. Cambridge turned him down, and when his headteacher telephoned and wrote to the admissions tutor just after the A-level results were published the school was told he was on holiday. The head's letter described our son as an outstanding student and suggested reasons why it is difficult to tutor for S-level papers in an inner-city comprehensive.

Our son went to Bristol, and got a first; he then went on to Imperial College and got a PhD. How many of the scientists who were admitted to Cambridge 10 years ago have such a track record? How many of their carefully-selected students fail to reach the levels of excellence that their carefully-rejected applicants reach in universities of equal stature?


Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now