Cambridge college accused of elitism after rejecting star students

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The Independent Online

Three state school students who each achieved at least five A grades at A-level have been rejected by Trinity College, Cambridge, provoking a new row over elitism.

One of the students, Candice Clarke, comes from a council estate in Essex. She and the other two, both boys, attended comprehensive schools. Their cases are similar to that of Laura Spence, the comprehensive-educated girl from Gateshead who was rejected by Magdalen College, Oxford, in 2000. Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, described Oxford's decision as a "disgrace".

Ms Clarke, 17, a former pupil at Colchester County High School for Girls in Essex, studied for her exams while caring for her sick grandmother. She said she was "devastated" by her rejection from Trinity College to read medicine. "I was angry," she said. "I deserved to go there and worked really hard." She has now accepted a place at Newcastle University, becoming the first person in her family to go to university.

Oliver Hambrey, 18, a pupil at the Chase School, a comprehensive in Malvern, Worcestershire, was rejected by Trinity College after applying to read maths. He achieved six A grades. "I felt that they were very harsh to me," he said yesterday. "They weren't very nice to me at the interview. I did feel intimidated in the interview. You always hear Cambridge saying that they try to be friendly and put people at their ease and they just weren't very nice to me at all," he said.

David Watkins, 18, a student at Seevic College in Essex, achieved six A grades at A-level, plus two A grades at AS-level. He has decided not to reapply to Cambridge and will now be studying maths at Imperial College, London.

Fifty-six per cent of Trinity College's new students last year were from the independent sector.

Paul Wingfield, admissions tutor at Trinity College, said competition for places to study medicine was particularly tough. "We received 1,157 applications this year for 278 places, so a large number of very bright students will always be unsuccessful," Dr Wingfield said.