Christ's College reigns in Cambridge

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CHRIST'S COLLEGE, alma mater to John Milton, Charles Darwin and Channel 4's Richard Whiteley, has come top of this year's Tompkins table of Cambridge University examination results.

The table, compiled for The Independent by Peter Tompkins, a partner in Pricewaterhouse Coopers, is used by high-flying sixth-formers to help them to choose a college and by dons to monitor their colleges' performance.

Christ's, which has traditionally been close to the top of the table, beat Trinity, the university's biggest college, into second place. Trinity took over the top spot from Christ's two years ago. Last year, Christ's was third and second the year before.

More than 30 per cent of students at Christ's and Trinity had firsts this year compared with an average of 21 per cent for the university as a whole.

Dr Kelvin Bowkett, Christ's senior tutor, said the success was the result of a very bright intake and good teaching. "We have some very strong students who take their studies seriously." But he dismissed student suggestions that Christ's closed the bar and banned music at examination time. "Students here work hard and play hard. They wouldn't succeed if they did nothing but work."

He said the college had taken seriously concerns that women did not obtain as many firsts as men and had worked to ensure that women were not demoralised. "Women here do virtually as well as men. We would still have been in the top three colleges if only the women's results had counted."

The table balances the results by allocating five points for a first, three for an upper second, two for a lower second and one for a third. Results are shown as a percentage of the maximum possible if everyone had a first.

The two remaining women's colleges, New Hall and Newnham, are in the bottom three alongside Magdalene.

Anne Lonsdale, New Hall's president, said: "Science in Cambridge tends to have a higher percentage of firsts than arts. More men do science, therefore there are more firsts in mixed colleges."

She said the reasons for the position of the women's colleges were complicated. The university was examining whether a gender bias existed, which would mean that women were under-achieving. "We do well in science. It is in history and English that that we don't seem to do as well."

The most notable rises this year are for Sidney Sussex, up from seventeenth to fourth; Corpus Christi, which comes up from eighteenth to eighth; and Robinson, the university's newest college, which is ninth, its highest position since its foundation 20 years ago.

Oxbridge college tables are controversial. Eight years ago, Oxford dons tried to stop the Norrington table, their equivalent of the Tompkins table, by removing college names from degree lists. They said the tables gave a misleading impression of performance. But students started to compile unofficial league tables and Oxford reinstated the college names last year.

Mr Tompkins, whose old college is Trinity, said that sixth-formers should not pay too much attention to the table when they picked a college because there was a danger that it might become a self-fulfilling prophecy. "There is a very strong showing by three colleges at the top of the table. Further down the list, some colleges have moved quite a lot," he said.

The Tompkins Table

(1998 places in brackets)

1 (3) Christ's 66.99%

2 (1) Trinity 66.41%

3 (2) Queens' 65.50%

4 (17) Sidney Sussex 64.82%

5 (5) Emmanuel 64.51%

6 (4) Gonville & Caius 63.68%

7 (15) Selwyn 63.67%

8 (18) Corpus Christi 63.27%

9 (19) Robinson 62.87%

10 (14) St. Catherine's 62.66%

11 (16) Jesus 62.10%

12 (8) St. John's 61.96%

13 (10) King's 61.87%

14 (9) Pembroke 61.77%

15 (6) Clare 61.60%

16 (11) Downing 61.48%

17 (23) Peterhouse 60.85%

18 (7) Trinity Hall 60.50%

19 (12) Fitzwilliam 60.28%

20 (13) Churchill 59.98%

21 (21) Girton 58.60%

22 (24) New Hall 58.29%

23 (22) Magdalene 58.03%

24 (20) Newnham 57.94%

Results are shown as a percentage of maximum possible points if every student had a first, with five points for a first, three for an upper second, two for a lower second and one for a third