Cambridge blames elitism row for fall in applications

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The Independent Online

Cambridge University fears that a drop in applications from state schools for the first time in 12 years has been caused by the élitism storm that followed the rejection of Laura Spence.

Cambridge University fears that a drop in applications from state schools for the first time in 12 years has been caused by the élitism storm that followed the rejection of Laura Spence.

Oxford University, which turned down Miss Spence, a comprehensive pupil from Tyneside, has already said that there appears to be a fall in state school applicants. Figures for applications to both universities this year will be known within the next 10 days.

Dr Susan Stobbs, Cambridge's admissions director, said she feared the statistics would show that the controversy over the Laura Spence case had dissuaded comprehensive students from applying.

For the first time, Cambridge has published a table showing how many places at each college went to state school applicants in 1999. Of the 24 main colleges, King's took the most with 79 per cent compared with 39 per cent at Gonville and Caius and Corpus Christi. The overall average was 53 per cent, though 59 per cent of applications came from state schools. At Oxford, Mansfield gave 74.6 per cent of places to state school pupils; at the other end of the scale, Oriel gave 40.4 per cent.

Oxford and Cambridge both say they would take more state school pupils if more applied. But only two colleges - Magdalene and St Catharine's - gave a greater percentage of places to state school pupils than their share of applicants from that sector.

The biggest gaps between the percentage of state school applications and admissions were at Emmanuel where 56 per cent of applications were from state schools compared with 42 per cent of those admitted. At Peterhouse the figures were 53 per cent and 40 per cent respectively. At Clare, Corpus Christi, Trinity and Trinity Hall, the gap was 10 percentage points.

Cambridge has been reluctant to provide a breakdown of state and fee-paying school applicants because it feared that state school candidates might be put off applying to those colleges that were working hardest to attract them.

Oxford published its figures for individual colleges earlier this year. Both universities acted after the information was requested by the House of Commons Education Select Committee, which began an inquiry into university access after the Laura Spence affair.

Oxford and Cambridge have tried to attract more state school pupils by sending staff and students to comprehensives and by holding summer schools. Sunday was the deadline for Oxbridge applications.

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