Recruiting state-school pupils pays off for Cambridge college

A Cambridge college that recruits an above-average number of state school pupils is at the top of a league table for undergraduates' degree results.

Emmanuel College has returned to the top of the Tompkins Table after an absence of three years, beating Trinity College into second place. The figures, compiled exclusively for The Independent, show that one in three Emmanuel College undergraduates gained a first this year.

The table shows the college scored 69.11 per cent in a ranking based on a points system in which colleges are awarded 100 per cent for a first, 60 per cent for a 2:1, 40 per cent for a 2:2 and 40 per cent for a third. Nearly 400 of Emmanuel's 420 undergraduates obtained at least a 2:1 degree, which is considered essential by the majority of graduate employers.

Richard Barnes, the college's senior tutor, said: "What this really means is that we're helping students to achieve their potential. It is nice to come top. The important thing is that we're doing well for our students."

Emmanuel takes 63 per cent of its undergraduate students from state schools; the university's average was 58 per cent last year. "We project a very friendly atmosphere and we have a fair admissions process," said Dr Barnes. "We do a lot of visits to state schools to encourage applications."

Dr Barnes added that while some students might be attracted to apply to the college because of its achievement, others could be put off because they might think the competition would be too great.

However, Peter Tompkins, the actuary who in 1981 devised the ranking system, said he was convinced that 17-year-olds seeking a university place would be more likely to apply to a top- ranking college. "I think it helps them [the colleges] get a better share of the top candidates," the alumnus of Trinity College said.

He added that the ranking might help colleges to fundraise more effectively from alumni. "Getting top place would be a pleasing comment to be able to make if you were sending out a begging letter," he said.

The table increases competition between the top colleges, he said. "There is no doubt Emmanuel and Trinity, for instance, see themselves as rivals in a light-hearted, competitive way." Emmanuel, known as "Emma" throughout the university, has been in the top five colleges in Cambridge for a decade and this is the fifth time it has come top in that period.

It is one of the university's wealthier colleges with an estimated financial endowment of £140m. It was founded in 1584 and alumni include the late Monty Python star Graham Chapman, the author Michael Frayn, The Goodies star Graeme Garden, and David Yelland, the former editor of The Sun.

It prides itself on a relaxed approach to learning, with students being encouraged to take time out from their studies on its bouncy castle. "I feel we have good students who are relaxed enough to do well in their degrees," said Dr Barnes.

This year's table also shows a major rise by Churchill College, which is up from seventh place to third – the highest position it has occupied for 20 years.

The biggest losers in the table were Gonville and Caius – down from fourth to 11th – and St John's – down from 14th to 20th. Gonville and Caius prides itself on having 12 Nobel Prize laureates among its alumni, the second-highest total – behind Trinity's – of any college. It had been fourth in the table in the previous two years.

Tompkins Table 2010 % Score - % Firsts

1 (2) Emmanuel 69.11% - 33.2%

2 (1) Trinity 67.15% - 32.1%

3 (7) Churchill 67.08% - 29.0%

4 (9) Trinity Hall 66.02% - 25.1%

5 (8) Magdalene 65.31% - 24.3%

6 (3) Selwyn 64.88% - 23.7%

7 (16) Peterhouse 64.85% - 27.0%

8 (18) Clare 64.19% - 23.5%

9 (5) St. Catharine's 64.15% - 23.8%

10 (6) Pembroke 64.04% - 24.1%

11 (4) Gonville & Caius 63.72% - 24.2%

12 (13) Christ's 63.62% - 22.0%

13 (10) Corpus Christi 63.48% - 21.6%

14 (17) King's 62.69% - 23.4%

15 (15) Downing 62.42% - 18.6%

16 (11) Jesus 62.32% - 19.7%

17 (12) Queens' 62.16% - 22.6%

18 (22) Sidney Sussex 61.86% - 20.3%

19 (19) Robinson 61.79% - 18.3%

20 (14) St. John's 61.73% - 19.1%

21 (20) Girton 60.38% - 16.4%

22 (21) Fitzwilliam 59.56% - 16.2%

23 (23) Murray Edwards 59.53% - 14.3%

24 (27) Wolfson 59.51% - 10.9%

25 (24) Newnham 58.73% - 14.2%

26 (25) Homerton 58.65% - 14.6%

27 (26) Hughes Hall 57.98% - 16.4%

28 (28) St Edmund's 54.68% - 8.0%

29 (29) Lucy Cavendish 52.45% - 11.7%

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