Oxford’s applications for entry in 2016 were higher than Cambridge, with 19,124 teenagers applying compared to 16,719 for Cambridge: a difference of around 15%. In both cases, there were a record number of applicants, with a total of 35,843 prospective Oxbridge students.
Multiple explanations have been put forward for the discrepancy, including Cambridge’s more stringent A-Level requirements, with many humanities courses requiring A* grades where Oxford does not, and Oxford’s more aggressive outreach schemes.
Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, stressed the role of admissions targets in increasing applications to Oxford when talking to The Daily Telegraph: “[Oxford] has taken into account contextual factors and it has reserved a number of places for students from who have been entitled to free school meals. Oxford is also encouraging people from a diversity of backgrounds to apply.”
Dr Julia Paolitto, Media Relations Manager for Oxford University, commented,“While it’s too early to be able to attribute our increase in applications to any one particular factor, we would take it as a positive sign that the increase in our outreach activity (and effective targeting of groups most under-represented at Oxford) is having an impact on our applications.”
Roughly 29,143 applicants did not secure a place this year – up by 1,044 or 4 per cent – from the 28,099 last year. This figure was a 6% rise on the 27,500 teenagers who were turned down in 2014/15.
Oxford has 3,200 places available, a fewer places than Cambridge’s 3,500 available spots.