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Oxbridge = Inaccessible to most students? watch

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    Relevant to the thread - and as mentioned elsewhere by vincrows :

    From The Times, 21 Oct.

    When education specialists, not a politician with a fixed agenda, talk ......

    A transformation of secondary school teaching in the north of England is needed to reduce the widening north-south divide among Oxbridge students, leading education officials have said.

    Schemes to attract the best and brightest teachers and head teachers to the north should emulate the success story in London schools, the children’s commissioner for England told The Times. Anne Longfield called for the change after figures were released showing that half the offers from Cambridge and Oxford went to applicants from London and the southeast.

    Statistics for applicants between 2010 and 2015 show that the west London borough of Richmond sent eight times as many students to Oxford (333) as Salford, Middlesbrough, Stoke, Hartlepool and Blackpool combined.

    Ms Longfield, who lives in Leeds and has a son, said that many bright pupils were being failed by secondary school teaching in the north. Research by the children’s commissioner found that a young person leaving school or college in London was 57 per cent more likely to go to a top university than a school leaver in the north. However, at primary school, children in the north have been shown to do as well as in the south. Ms Longfield said: “There has been a huge economic boost in the southeast and that comes at the same time as schools in the past five years have improved beyond recognition. This means kids growing up in the south are in a very different environment. The speed London turned around its schools leads me to believe that it is perfectly possible in all areas.”

    Nationally about 31 per cent of people are in the top two social income groups, which include doctors, lawyers and senior managers. However, the data reveals children from these background had their share of Oxbridge offers increase from 79 per cent to 81 per cent between 2010 and 2015. This was despite both universities spending £5m each a year on efforts to cast the net wider for students, according to official figures. David Lammy MP, who obtained the Oxbridge application data, said: “We have gone backwards on social class, we have made no progress at all on the north-south divide and we have made very little progress on race.” The data also shows that only one in four Cambridge colleges made offers to black British students in every year between 2010 and 2015. And each year over that period, a quarter of colleges failed to make any offers at all to black British applicants. During this period, an average of 378 black students per year got AAA grades or better at A-levels.

    Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, said that without the outreach work Oxford and Cambridge do in disadvantaged areas the picture would be even worse. He told The Times that there was “not a critical mass of great teachers” in the north and students’ talents were “not being as well cultivated away from the southeast”.
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    (Original post by J-SP)
    I’m not putting the blame solely on Oxbridge and never said it was entirely their fault. But I do think they could do a lot better. They are part of the problem though and I truly believe their efforts so far are more for PR reasons rather than truly believing in improving the diversity of their students. For such fantastic institutions, they are shockingly behind the times compared to other highly rated universities. Considering their resources, they could do a lot more.
    I really strongly do not believe that Oxbridge want their student body to be un-diverse. Everybody here is clear on the fact that diversity makes for better ideas, which is the bottom line. Literally all they care about is academic standards. The problem is that though they do more to attract other groups than other universities do, they are hampered by the fact that they are glorified/mythologised so much.
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    (Original post by Etoile)
    I really strongly do not believe that Oxbridge want their student body to be un-diverse. Everybody here is clear on the fact that diversity makes for better ideas, which is the bottom line. Literally all they care about is academic standards. The problem is that though they do more to attract other groups than other universities do, they are hampered by the fact that they are glorified/mythologised so much.
    It’s naive to think that they only care about academic standards. They don’t - like any large international business they have to think about many different factors. And protecting that business goes beyond being concerned about the standard of their academics.

    Please substantiate the “they do more than other universities” though.
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    (Original post by J-SP)
    It’s naive to think that they only care about academic standards. They don’t - like any large international business they have to think about many different factors. And protecting that business goes beyond being concerned about the standard of their academics.

    Please substantiate the “they do more than other universities” though.
    Have you ever been here?? When it comes to admissions they could not care less what your background is. Even hanging out with fellows as a postgrad they don't care about anything but the research. Their business *is* the standard of their academics!

    See above about how much they spend... they also do more in terms of summer schools, master classes, taster sessions, workshops, teacher training, bursaries etc; I thought that had already been firmly established. When I was applying (2013 entry) they were one of only a couple of places to offer summer schools, and the only place to do masterclasses and run admissions conferences. I even had an admissions tutor come to my school and give a talk. Even down to the minor things - I don't see any other universities' admissions officers answering questions on TSR.
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    (Original post by Etoile)
    Have you ever been here?? When it comes to admissions they could not care less what your background is. Even hanging out with fellows as a postgrad they don't care about anything but the research. Their business *is* the standard of their academics!

    See above about how much they spend... they also do more in terms of summer schools, master classes, taster sessions, workshops, teacher training, bursaries etc; I thought that had already been firmly established. When I was applying (2013 entry) they were one of only a couple of places to offer summer schools, and the only place to do masterclasses and run admissions conferences. Even down to the minor things - I don't see any other universities' admissions officers answering questions on TSR.
    Yes - I’ve worked closely with both Oxford and Cambridge for over 10 years. Over 18 months alone, I visited Cambridge over 60 times alone.

    They do a lot, but whether that is “more” is not evidenced by what you or others are saying. Just because they do more apparent schemes to you, does not mean they “do more”. As a proportion of their revenue, their access initiatives will not be “more” than many universities of various levels of prestige.
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    (Original post by J-SP)
    Yes - I’ve worked closely with both Oxford and Cambridge for over 10 years. Over 18 months alone, I visited Cambridge over 60 times alone.

    They do a lot, but whether that is “more” is not evidenced by what you or others are saying. Just because they do more apparent schemes to you, does not mean they “do more”. As a proportion of their revenue, their access initiatives will not be “more” than many universities of various levels of prestige.
    Then I'm surprised that you have misjudged the culture here so badly.

    To applicants it feels like more. In my edit to my post I noted that an admissions tutor came to visit my school. I think that was one of the most valuable things, because it humanises the universities to see the tutors in the context of your own normal life. The talk was about demystifying the process and other such outreach stuff. No other universities do anything like that - I didn't receive communications from any other universities. I've never heard about UCL's outreach, or Bristol's.
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    (Original post by Etoile)
    Then I'm surprised that you have misjudged the culture here so badly.

    To applicants it feels like more. In my edit to my post I noted that an admissions tutor came to visit my school. I think that was one of the most valuable things, because it humanises the universities to see the tutors in the context of your own normal life. The talk was about demystifying the process and other such outreach stuff. No other universities do anything like that - I didn't receive communications from any other universities. I've never heard about UCL's outreach, or Bristol's.
    There’s no misjudgement just a view that is different to yours. Maybe you need to consider your own bias as skewing your own view.

    You were in a geographical area or target school for Oxford’s outreach. Bristol and UCL will have different targets. Just because they didn’t visit you, didn’t mean they didn’t visit your counterpart in a different region.

    Oxford and Cambridge have extra ordinary amount of resources available to them that other universities do not have. They are off the scale in terms of finances and assets compared to any other university in the UK. There are many more universities that commit far greater proportions of their resource to access initiatives. That’s why I think Oxbridge should “do more” but also I think they need to be a bit more open minded to what that “more” is.
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    (Original post by J-SP)
    There’s no misjudgement just a view that is different to yours. Maybe you need to consider your own bias as skewing your own view.

    You were in a geographical area or target school for Oxford’s outreach. Bristol and UCL will have different targets. Just because they didn’t visit you, didn’t mean they didn’t visit your counterpart in a different region.
    My bias as in being a student at both, going through the admissions process at both, and being involved with the faculty and fellows at both? I can't think of a way that would give better insight into the culture and the fact that they are organisations that just care about academic research other than becoming an admissions tutor myself!

    That's incorrect - Oxbridge target the whole country and split the regions by different colleges. I was visited by a Cambridge college yet UCL and Bristol were both closer and the local Russell Group uni doesn't seem to do anything in the area :dontknow:
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    Also there are more state school kids at cambridge than bristol or durham.
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    A good example of the fact that Oxford just care about academia and not people's backgrounds is the fact that to get in all I had to do was send my undergrad transcript, two writing samples, a personal statement and a couple of references. Nothing about my school, income, parents, whatever. Not even an interview. Just my skills.
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    (Original post by Etoile)
    My bias as in being a student at both, going through the admissions process at both, and being involved with the faculty and fellows at both? I can't think of a way that would give better insight into the culture and the fact that they are organisations that just care about academic research other than becoming an admissions tutor myself!

    That's incorrect - Oxbridge target the whole country and split the regions by different colleges. I was visited by a Cambridge college yet UCL and Bristol were both closer and the local Russell Group uni doesn't seem to do anything in the area :dontknow:
    Yes - you have a personal bias given your connection to the universities. It doesn’t mean you don’t have insight, but it does mean you are a little over protective given the nature of your posts.

    See my edit in the post.
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    (Original post by Etoile)
    A good example of the fact that Oxford just care about academia and not people's backgrounds is the fact that to get in all I had to do was send my undergrad transcript, two writing samples, a personal statement and a couple of references. Nothing about my school, income, parents, whatever. Not even an interview. Just my skills.
    We are not talking about PG admissions here. That’s a whole different process. At UG they would have some of that information, and rightfully so to be able to contextualise admissions criteria.
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    At Oxford LMH OXFORD are probably game changers. They have the innovative foundation year and they have also been working closely with my local borough through a 'thinking differently' scheme. Probably the only reason why I applied to Oxford in the end - they seem to make it slightly accessible and more should follow them. As well as this Oxford have a UNIQ summer school problem which I also attended, they are trying and I genuinely feel that it will improve.
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    (Original post by Jakir)
    At Oxford @LMHOXFORD are probably game changers. They have the innovative foundation year and they have also been working closely with my local borough through a 'thinking differently' scheme. Probably the only reason why I applied to Oxford in the end - they seem to make it slightly accessible and more should follow them. As well as this Oxford have a UNIQ summer school problem which I also attended, they are trying and I genuinely feel that it will improve.
    Completely agree that more of this should be done. But these foundation years are not innovative outside of Oxford - many universities have been using these for a long time and with great success.

    I’d love to see more of them at both Oxford and Cambridge.
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    (Original post by J-SP)
    Yes - you have a personal bias given your connection to the universities. It doesn’t mean you don’t have insight, but it does mean you are a little over protective given the nature of your posts.

    See my edit in the post.
    A lot of their wealth is locked up in real estate and they also have to manage things that most other universities don't - museums and university presses spring to mind, which are very expensive to run, not to mention the upkeep on listed buildings (my Cambridge college recently had to raise a lot of money to fix 18th century stonework and roofing, for example) and religious expenses.

    The reason I am over protective is because I honestly believe they do what they can and are constantly working on doing more, so articles like the one in the OP just damage the work they are doing and set the cause back. It's very difficult for two institutions to work a) against their own long histories and b) against the way they are constantly portrayed in the media. They can't reach every single student in the country but the BBC can! As I said a while above, I am from the background that they target and it's my belief that students are largely the ones holding themselves back from applying, no matter how much Oxbridge tells them to, because of a misconception that they won't get in/fit in because everyone there is a baronet from Eton who speaks fluent Greek and Latin and there's nobody else from a comprehensive who prefers to spend their time watching trash tv. Hence why I am so keen to emphasise my experience in my posts: now that I have been to both I can definitely say that I do not see that cultural divide.


    (Original post by J-SP)
    We are not talking about PG admissions here. That’s a whole different process. At UG they would have some of that information, and rightfully so to be able to contextualise admissions criteria.
    Wanting to know if I had money or would match their cultural requirements would still apply, no?
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    (Original post by Etoile)
    Wanting to know if I had money or would match their cultural requirements would still apply, no?
    The finances go well beyond their real estate or their museums. They are the mega wealthy when it comes to their revenue, and other universities, even the biggest and more reputable, only have a fraction of what Oxbridge has. We are talking billions vs hundreds of millions.

    It is great to have that belief and passion, but it doesn’t mean some of the things you have said are true or even near reflective. That is what I am trying to get across to you.

    I am not having a go at either university as I have huge amounts of respect for them. But like you, I strongly believe something. And that belief is that there are certain factors that as a business they need to consider, and that hinders diversity on some level - probably where they are factors designed/constructed/funded by rich white men. For every academic who doesn’t give two hoots about a student’s background (and I hope they wouldn’t), there are people running the business side of things who are more concerned about the numbers than the diversity.
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    (Original post by J-SP)
    The finances go well beyond their real estate or their museums. They are the mega wealthy when it comes to their revenue, and other universities, even the biggest and more reputable, only have a fraction of what Oxbridge has. We are talking billions vs hundreds of millions.

    It is great to have that belief and passion, but it doesn’t mean some of the things you have said are true or even near reflective. That is what I am trying to get across to you.

    I am not having a go at either university as I have huge amounts of respect for them. But like you, I strongly believe something. And that belief is that there are certain factors that as a business they need to consider, and that hinders diversity on some level - probably where they are factors designed/constructed/funded by rich white men. For every academic who doesn’t give two hoots about a student’s background (and I hope they wouldn’t), there are people running the business side of things who are more concerned about the numbers than the diversity.
    They may be relatively (very) wealthy but consider that Cambridge spend about £1000 per place on Outreach (£4.4 million for 4,400 undergraduate places). This excludes the additional £6.5 million provided to students via bursaries every year and there's the cost per place of the admissions process (interviews by 4 staff, multiple hours spent reviewing each application, etc).

    And then on the income side the tuition fees don't even cover the tuition costs for Cambridge given the supervision system, etc. The international fees are a truer reflection of the real cost of their costs.

    Their endowments are worth about £6 billion. A huge sum. But that's not a liquid asset. The yield (income) is relatively small.

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    (Original post by Doonesbury)
    They may be relatively (very) wealthy but consider that Cambridge spend about £1000 per place on Outreach (£4.4 million for 4,400 places). This excludes the additional £6 million provided to students via bursaries every year and there's the cost per place of the admissions process (interviews by 4 staff, multiple hours spent reviewing each application, etc).

    And then on the income side the tuition fees don't even cover the tuition costs for Cambridge given the supervision system, etc. The international fees are a truer reflection of the real cost of their costs.

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    I understand all of that. I still don’t think it proportionate or enough - but that’s just my opinion. I wouldn’t count the admissions process though.

    Ultimately they have more finances to do more, no matter how much more expensive their tuition system or their admissions processes. And the effort they do put is not working on certain levels. Maybe they just need to rethink their strategy and approach.
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    (Original post by J-SP)
    I understand all of that. I still don’t think it proportionate or enough - but that’s just my opinion. I wouldn’t count the admissions process though.

    Ultimately they have more finances to do more, no matter how much more expensive their tuition system or their admissions processes. And the effort they do put is not working on certain levels. Maybe they just need to rethink their strategy and approach.
    They can never win, can they’?
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    (Original post by vincrows)
    They can never win, can they’?
    Well they win in lots of other areas, so maybe they aren’t worried about winning this particular battle.
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