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Proportion of state school pupils at Oxford University reaches record high

By Eleanor Busby

The University of Oxford has accepted record numbers of state school students to start this term following the grading chaos over the summer.

More than 68% of new undergraduates starting degree courses at the prestigious institution next month will have been educated in the state sector – compared to just over 62% last year, figures show.

It comes after the university accepted more than 300 state school students who had initially missed their grades under Ofqual’s controversial algorithm, which was used after exams were cancelled.

The University of Oxford admitted a further 79 pupils from state schools who met their offers after Ofqual allowed A-level results to be based on schools’ estimated grades rather than the algorithm.

Earlier this month, Cambridge University revealed that the proportion of state school students starting this autumn would reach a record high after it increased its intake amid the grading upheaval.

Figures from Oxford suggest the gap between students from the most and least socio-economically advantaged areas entering the university has closed, from 4.3:1 last year to 2.9:1 in 2020.

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.

Opportunity Oxford residential programme – designed to increase offers made to students coming from schools, colleges, or neighbourhoods which do not traditionally send many students to Oxford – has also welcomed its first cohort of 100 students this year, with three others having deferred places for 2021.

Professor Louise Richardson, University of Oxford vice-chancellor, said: “We are delighted by the results of the concerted efforts across the university to identify talented students from a broad range of backgrounds who are passionate about their subject.

“We are particularly pleased to have been able to welcome the inaugural class of Opportunity Oxford students, notwithstanding the constraints imposed by the pandemic.

“It is going to be a challenging year ahead for all of us but we are confident that every one of our incoming students will receive a fabulous education which will be the cornerstone for their future life and career.”

Dr Samina Khan, director of undergraduate admissions and outreach, said: “From expanding our digital outreach offering during lockdown, to voicing and upholding concerns about the Ofqual algorithm used to award A-level grades this year, our commitment to supporting talented students of all backgrounds to achieve their Oxford dreams and potential, has I hope been apparent throughout this extraordinary period.

“The new academic year will see a record number of state-school students arriving at Oxford, and we could not be more delighted.”

(PA)