The Welsh government’s Oxbridge Ambassador said this week that greater ambition was needed from teachers and students to combat declining Welsh admission rates at Oxford and Cambridge.
Paul Murphy, former Welsh Secretary, was appointed as Oxbridge Ambassador for Wales after talks with the Welsh Minister for Education Leighton Andrews last month.
Murphy made the comments in relation to statistics published in a report by his office which show that just 75 of the 424 Welsh students who applied to Oxford in 2011 were successful, compared with 84 out of 397 applications in 2007.
Murphy said to the BBC earlier this week, “I’m sure there are lots of youngsters who would like to go but don’t know how to go about it. It’s getting rid of the fear of the perceived elitism when they go there. Unless we up the pressure on schools and colleges in Wales to do this, then it’s not going to do anything about it.”
Murphy, who studied History at Oriel College, has in the past said that students from the south Wales valleys are five-times less likely to apply to Oxford or Cambridge than students in some of the more affluent English counties. In a letter to the South Wales Argus published on Sunday, Murphy wrote, “As a working class boy from the valleys who was given the enormous opportunity to study at Oxford, this concerns me greatly.”
Murphy suggested Welsh admission rates have fallen dramatically because several “challenges” which needed to be overcome. Another report published by his office placed some of the blame on the Welsh Baccalaureate (WBQ), stating, “Discussions with admissions tutors raised concerns with the Welsh Baccalaureate (WBQ).” Oxbridge expect prospective students to have studied three subjects at A-level but many Welsh students taking the WBQ will only do two. Speaking to WalesOnline, Owen Hathway, policy officer for NUT Wales denied claims that Welsh teachers lack Oxbridge ambition, stating, “It is certainly not a case of lack of ambition from their teachers holding them back.” Oxbridge have recently made attempts to reach out to Welsh students and held a joint conference last year in Swansea which attracted more than 1,000 pupils.
Jesus has traditionally been regarded as Oxford’s “Welsh College”, with more than 15 per cent of current undergrads coming from Welsh schools. One third-year student told Cherwell, “The statistics are pretty clear but I have no doubt that the Welsh student community in Oxford will remain strong in spite of this decline.”