The Russell Group of universities has published a  post-16 study guide called ‘Informed Choices,’ in which students are advised to take traditional subjects at A level in order to maximise their chances of getting into a top university.

One Oxford student said, “At my school we weren’t really told to think about university when choosing A level subjects, many people just took what they had liked best at GCSE, or thought looked good in the sixth form prospectus.

 

“I was lucky in that I was sure which A levels I wanted to study, and so didn’t need guidance. However, I have friends who were not given any advice on which subjects they should have taken, and ended up doing courses that weren’t useful.”

 

The guide acknowledges that important decisions can be made as early as sixteen. For a highly ranked university such as Oxford, an applicant’s combination of A level subjects can determine their chances of getting an offer and may even prevent them from applying for certain courses.

 

One student said, “the fact a lot of state schools aren’t as familiar with the Oxbridge application process as public schools means that they often can’t supply potential applicants with the right guidance.”

 

However, one undergraduate said, “I got here because I put in the work.
“I believe that if you work hard, you can get anywhere, no matter where you go to school.”

 

Oxford University currently offers generous bursaries and outreach schemes in order to widen access.

 

However, in an interview for a BBC Radio 4 documentary, Mike Nicholson, the Director of Undergraduate Admissions at Oxford, remarked that potential state school candidates are  missing out.

 

He said that the effort taken by state schools to raise the grades of low achievers was having an effect on the “solid B” GCSE students who, with adequate guidance, could potentially apply to Oxford.

 

The comments come at a time when the government, set to allow universities to raise tuition fees to £9,000, is attempting to widen access to the top institutions.

 

Currently some students who attended state schools said that they were given only limited guidance by their teachers.

 

One student said, “staff at my school did their best for me, but many had little or no experience of helping with applications to top universities and simply weren’t sure how to help.

 

“We were sent for a single practice interview provided by the LEA (Local Education Authority) [but] I found more useful advice online.”

 

As part of the Education Review, universities wishing to charge more than £,6000 will have to commit to ‘access agreements’ in order to recruit students from a range of backgrounds.

 

No specific details have been released yet, but they may consist of offering bursaries, summer schools and outreach programmes designed to encourage students from poorer backgrounds to apply.

 

Many believe that such measures will help to maximise the chances of state school students.

 

The exact nature of the measures to be taken under the new act have not yet been determined.

 

A statement from the University Press Office stated that “fee levels and associated student support are under intense discussion over the next several weeks across the collegiate University.”

 

Many believe that such measures will help to maximise the chances of state school students.

 

However, the exact nature of the measures to be taken under the new act have not yet been determined and will be negotiated with the Office For Fair Access (OFFA).

 

A statement from the University Press Office stated that “fee levels and associated student support are under intense discussion over the next several weeks across the collegiate University.”