Whitehall looks beyond Oxbridge

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The Independent Online
An attempt to broaden the base from which the highest- flying civil servants are recruited was launched by the Government yesterday amid limited evidence that recent new recruits are slightly less Oxbridge dominated than they were.

Whitehall is attempting both to cut the huge number of applicants to its accelerated stream while encouraging higher quality candidates from a wider range of institutions. It is also to place more emphasis on numerical and scientific skills.

Good applicants from a wider range of universities are to be encouraged by extensive advertising, the dispatch of recent recruits to meet university students and a video showing that the Civil Service is no longer the "brolly and bowler hat brigade", according to David Willetts, the Minister for Public Services.

To cut back on hopeless applications, a paper and computer-based self- assessment questionnaire is being made available to allow candidates to assess their suitability, after 12,600 applications were received last year, just 267 of which were recommended for appointment to the 246 vacancies.

The Government had no quotas, Mr Willetts said, adding that it was "no crime" to be an Oxford-educated white male". But it was interested in "attracting the best from all backgrounds". Recent research has shown an image problem for the Civil Service among undergraduates, with students at other universities seeing the fast stream as an exclusively Oxbridge preserve.

Last year, Oxbridge accounted for 39 per cent of all fast stream recruits, including specialists, but among generalists - the traditional policy makers - the proportion was down to 52 per cent from 58 per cent in 1993. Forty-one per cent were women, 6 per cent from ethnic minorities.

Change was needed to answer recruitment competition from business and the City and also in recognition that the Civil Service no longer recruited people for life, Mr Willetts said.

"We need to be sure we are fishing in the whole pool. We will have a problem if we remain overdependent on one or two sources for recruits."

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