Blunkett: Oxbridge still too exclusive

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The Independent Online

David Blunkett, the former education secretary, will this week reignite the row between the Labour Party and Oxford and Cambridge over whether the universities are doing enough to encourage state school pupils to apply.

In an interview, he will accuse Cambridge of only paying "lip service" to widening access to state pupils. He also accuses Oxford of showing "great resistance" to adapting to the needs of the 21st century.

Mr Blunkett, who as Labour's first education secretary after its victory in 1997 backed efforts by organisations such as Sutton Trust to run summer schools to encourage more applicants, will say the two universities "made the right noises" about widening participation since 2000.

But he says "the structures of Oxford and Cambridge make this difficult because, as we've seen, there's great resistance to bringing Oxford, in particular, into the 21st century and the lip-service paid at Cambridge hasn't yielded as much fruit as anyone would have liked".

In an interview to be published in the Fabian Society magazine on Thursday, Mr Blunkett will say the interview process at the universities entrenches bias towards private school pupils. The interviews could be skewed towards "a certain type of approach" which favoured a learning style taught in private schools.

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