Cambridge set for 'record high' proportion of state school students

Number of state school students starting at Cambridge University this term will hit record high after it increased intake amid A-level exams fiasco

  • Seven in ten UK undergraduates starting at Cambridge will be from state schools
  • The figure is an eight per cent rise from five years ago, when it was at 62 per cent
  • The university has also increased intake by 10 per cent following results fiasco 

A record high proportion of state school students will start courses at the University of Cambridge this year, after the world institution increased its intake in the wake of the A-Level results fiasco, it has been revealed.

Around 70 per cent of UK undergraduates starting at the university this autumn will have been educated in the state sector, according to its early admissions data.

The figure is eight per cent higher than five years ago, when it was around 62 per cent.

It comes after the Government called on universities to prioritise students from disadvantaged backgrounds for admission ‘where possible’ following the U-turn on A-level grades.

The sudden U-turn left thousands of students scrambling for places after the government dropped its controversial grade algorithm scheme and reverted back to teacher-assessed marks – with exams cancelled this year due to coronavirus.

Around 70 per cent of UK undergraduates starting at Cambridge University (pictured) this autumn will have been educated in the state sector, according to its early admissions data

Cambridge, which is ranked as the sixth best university in the world and the second in England by the Times Higher Education guide, increased its intake by more than 10 per cent this year after the fiasco.

The university says it will be welcoming a record number of freshers next month after nearly 400 students met their offer conditions after Ofqual announced that results could be based on teachers’ estimated grades.

But no student at Cambridge has been forced to defer until next year. Instead, the institution has increased its intake by more than 10 per cent this year.

The university normally plans for an intake of around 3,450 undergraduates.

But this autumn it will admit up to 3,890 students.

Figures from Ofqual last month showed the proportion of A-level entries in England which received top grades increased to a record high following the changes to the system four days after results day.

More students from the most deprived areas in the UK will be attending Cambridge next month, increasing from 13 per cent to 14 per cent of the undergraduate cohort, initial admissions figures show.

Last year, more than 68 per cent of students starting degree courses at Cambridge were from state schools but this year’s figure is expected to rise to 70 per cent.

No student at Cambridge has been forced to defer until next year. Instead, the institution has increased its intake by more than 10 per cent this year. Lauen Lopez, who achieved three A stars and is going to Cambridge University

Figures from Ofqual last month showed the proportion of A-level entries in England which received top grades increased to a record high following the changes to the system four days after results day

Overall, nearly two in five (39.1 per cent) of teachers’ estimates for A-level pupils in England were initially adjusted down by one grade or more by exam boards after exams were cancelled amid Covid-19.

It left many students missing out on their university places, including admissions to Russell Group universities such as Cambridge and Oxford which require top grades to secure an offer. 

But after the U-turn was made – which allowed results to be based on schools’ estimated grades rather than Ofqual’s controversial algorithm – the revised A level results showed that the proportion of exam entries receiving an A grade or higher has increased to a record high for England, with 38.1 per cent awarded the top grades – up from 25.2 per cent on the original algorithm grades.

Universities had been struggling with the sheer volume of demand as 55,000 pupils who accepted a place at another university or got a new course at clearing tried to get into their top choice. 

The government had tried to ease the pressure on universities by removing the cap on admissions, but excluded medicine, dentistry and veterinary sciences, leaving medics uncertain if they would be able to claim their place this year.

Professor Stephen Toope, University of Cambridge vice-chancellor, said this summer had been an ‘exceptionally challenging admissions process’

However they later agreed to lift the cap on medicine, dentistry, veterinary science and teaching courses following the U-turn, which resulted in top civil servant at the Department for Education Jonathan Slater being effectively removed from his post and will leave on September 1, while Ofqual chief executive Sally Collier resigned from her post in the wake of the fiasco.

Universities minister Michelle Donelan wrote to vice-chancellors asking them to honour all offers to students who met their conditions this year wherever possible.

Professor Stephen Toope, University of Cambridge vice-chancellor, said: ‘This summer has been an exceptionally challenging admissions process.

‘Staff have worked round the clock to ensure that each student who has met their offer secures a place to study at Cambridge.

‘And our colleges have worked together to provide extra accommodation for the higher than planned for intake.

‘This incredible effort means we are not having to compel any student to defer entry until 2021.’

He added: ‘I am also proud that we have the highest ever number of state school students arriving this year as well as greater numbers from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, underlying our commitment to providing equality of educational opportunity.

‘We look forward to welcoming all our new students in October.’

University of Oxford is ranked best in the world for FIFTH year in a row as Cambridge slips from third to sixth place – its lowest position since 2014 

The University of Oxford has been ranked the best in the world for the fifth year in a row – but fierce rival Cambridge has slipped from third to sixth, its lowest position since 2014. 

A number of UK universities have fallen down the Times Higher Education (THE) world rankings this year – including Cambridge and also Imperial College London, which has dropped out of the top 10.

Experts have warned that the pandemic heralds ‘a perfect storm’ of huge challenges for UK universities who risk losing international student fee income and the global flow of academic talent to institutions.

They say a hard Brexit – combined with the impact of Covid-19 – could make British universities ‘increasingly vulnerable’ and the UK risks losing its status as a ‘higher education superpower’.

The University of Oxford  (pictured, Merton College) has been ranked the best in the world for the fifth year in a row

Overall, the UK has 29 universities in the top 200, up slightly from 28 last year.

Of these, more than half (15 institutions) have dropped by at least one place in the past 12 months.

The annual list rates more than 1,500 universities from 93 countries and regions in five areas: teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industry income.

The rankings show Oxford once again was named the best-performing university globally, ahead of Stanford University in the United States, which took second place.

US universities dominated the top 10 in the rankings, claiming a record eight places.

Rounding out the latest top five are three other US institutions – Harvard University, California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Cambridge University is no longer in the top five as it takes sixth place in the list, which is down three places on last year when it was third.

Imperial College London dropped out of the top 10, taking 11th place compared to tenth last year.

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