While historically both top-ranking universities have not favoured state-educated students from the UK, that is changing. In recent years, both Oxford and Cambridge have boosted their intake of state school-educated students. This was most recently highlighted in news that the universities have offered 48 places to students at the prestigious Eton College this year, compared to 99 in 2014. By comparison, London state school Brampton Manor Academy received 55 Oxbridge offers this year.
The UK’s two leading universities have been under growing pressure to broaden their intake and recruit more diverse students – and the change is evident. Between 2015-2020 state school intake has increased from 62.3% to 70% at Cambridge and from 55.6% to 68.7% at Oxford – and the number of Oxbridge offers is reaching double figures at a growing number of state secondary schools, grammar schools and sixth form colleges. Are these figures high enough, though, when you consider that 93% of UK students are state educated?
While these statistics certainly mark an improvement for state-school applicants, they do only apply to UK applicants. Looking at the broader picture, Higher Education Student Statistics (HESA) show a reduction in UK student numbers at Oxford and Cambridge, as well an increase in offers being given to international students from 2018/19 to 2019/20, mainly from non-EU countries (the Brexit effect). Currently, 21% of Oxford undergraduates and 25% of Cambridge undergraduates are international citizens.
At least part of the reason for increasing state school success is not social engineering, but just hard work and better preparation. We’re seeing more state schools offer bespoke Oxbridge preparation programmes; at Hereford Sixth Form College, for example, the Reach project is run by a dedicated team of specialist advisors to assist students considering applying for Oxbridge. There’s also been the launch of public schemes to widen access to Oxbridge such as the Zero Gravity mentoring programme, and the Cambridge Students’ Union Shadowing Scheme.
Equally, however, there is the realisation not everyone is starting from the same staring line. For this reason, both Oxford and Cambridge have introduced foundation year programmes for disadvantaged pupils and under-represented students, giving students who missed their grades the opportunity to study a full degree if they pass the foundation year. Another initiative, Target Oxbridge, is supporting British students of black heritage to gain places at Oxford and Cambridge.
While we are drawing attention to those state schools with Oxbridge offers, this is not the only measure of a school’s success – far from it. There are state schools sending students to Russell Group universities, which are traditionally the most selective in the UK and the destination for many students attending UK private schools. However, HESA statistics show that the proportion of state-educated students differs significantly by university – it’s less than 80% at leading universities including Exeter, Durham, LSE, UCL and Bristol.
But if your goal is to study at Oxbridge (or for your kids to do so) – and your family does not have as much as £42,000 a year for a private school education – then you may want to consider this shortlist of UK state schools.
And they may want to consider you...
It is not, of course, as simple as finding the school you like and signing up. The majority of these high-achieving state schools are selective, so you will need high GCSE grades to be granted a place (typically 6.5 Average Point Score across all GCSEs), and they will typically offer places first to applicants from partner primary or secondary state schools within the county or surrounding area. They are also often, unsurprisingly, oversubscribed. But, the good news for parents, they are free…
Can I apply to a UK state school? Anyone currently living overseas who wants to apply for a state-funded school place must have a right of abode in the UK (have a British passport, be a British citizen etc). If you do not, then you will need to apply to an independent (also known as a private or public) school, which charges tuition fees. Read more.
Next Page: The UK state schools with some of the highest number of Oxbridge offers (2021)