Students who are privately educated received considerably more support when applying to Oxford than those from state schools, a Cherwell survey shows this week.
Private school students are are far more likely to receive support in the form of mock interviews and exams, personal applications tutors, advice on college choice and past interview questions.
The results come in a week when Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes called on universities to drastically reduce their intake of state private school students.
Some students who were state educated commented that in fact they were actively discouraged by teachers from applying, being told that it was a waste of time.
Despite the disparity in support available to students, the University says that the application process enables academics to only pick the best candidates irrespective of how much support they have received.
The results show that over 50% of students whose education cost more that £10,000 per year had access to a database of past interview questions from which to revise for their Oxford interviews.
These questions are collected from past applicants once they have taken their interview.
93% of privately educated applicants took a mock interview and 40% were advised which college to apply to. For state students, 63% took a mock interview and 14% were given advice on which college to apply for.
A large proportion of state school pupils felt that their school failed to provide them with adequate support and preparation.
The added support in some private schools comes at a price however, as private school students tended to expreience more pressure than state school students during their Oxford application process.
16.5% of students from private schools said that they felt under pressure ‘all the time’ while no students who attended state schools said the same.
Some students commented that they had been advised not to apply to Oxbridge. One student said, “The main issue for me was that I was actively discouraged by some teachers at my school from applying.”
Another student commented on the lack of support at her school. She said, “In fact they forgot to register me for the entrance exam, so I had to drive up to Oxford on the day in order to take it.”
The survey also revealed that proportion of students were asked questions during their interview that they had prepared answers for in advance. 20% of private school students admitted to doing this, whilst 10% of state school students said the same.
A University spokesperson said that University outreach programmes are designed to help people who receive little support from their schools.
The spokesperson said, “We understand that there are differences in resources between schools, and that is why the University goes to so much effort to make information about our admissions process as clear as possible, making freely available online videos and podcasts giving information including how to apply and choose between colleges.”
When asked if schools that kept databases of past questions for Oxbridge applicants, the University spokesperson said, “There are no tricks to being accepted by Oxford, and it isn’t possible to ‘cheat the system’. The University’s rigorous selection system scrutinises candidates so that only those with the best academic ability and potential are accepted.”
Andrew Grant, Vice Chairman of The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), said that it was only fair that all students received a high level of education and university application support.
Grant, who is also the Headmaster of St Alban’s in Herts, added, “It is schools that don’t provide enough support that are treating their students unfairly and of course more should be done to remedy it.”
The Headmaster of Eton College, Tony Little, said that students at Eton weren’t forced to apply anywhere. He commented, “The decision to apply and choice of subject and college are entirely down to the boy: help with preparation is given through individual departments.
“When it comes down to it, self-motivation and enthusiasm for the subject are the determining qualities.”
This week, LibDem deputy leader Simon Hughes sparked criticism when he said, “If you’re really going to be radical about these things, then you have to say ‘access’ means you seek to reflect society in your recruitment policy.
“And most people in society go to local schools, not to private schools, and therefore most people from all universities, including Russell Group universities, should do that. And it doesn’t mean lowering standards.”
He pointed out that in Oxford, 46.6% of the undergraduate population attended private school, whilst this is only true for 7.2% of the population at large in England.
The state/private divide in Oxford is still felt, according to Cherwell’s survey, with 35% of students from state school saying that they feel there is a divide either ‘all the time’ or ‘quite often’ whilst only 23.5% of privately educated students saying the same.
One international student who was educated in Hong Kong explained how little help was available for students wanting to study in UK. She said, “[at school] there was brilliant support if you were applying to the US and practically none if you were applying to the UK… after all, who wants to apply there?!”
The results were based on 190 responses from colleges across the University.