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EDITIONS
Monday, 29 January, 2001, 15:28 GMT
State pupils lead race to Oxford
Magdalen College
Magdalen College: At the centre of the admissions row
State school applicants to Oxford University are more likely to be awarded a place than their fee-paying school counterparts for the first time in recent years, statistics show.

Provisional figures for the present academic year suggest 42.2% of state school applicants successfully took up a place at Oxford, compared with 41.7% of independent school pupils.

State school success rates
1994/95 31.2%
1995/96 35%
1996/97 37.4%
1997/98 39.6%
1998/99 40.7%
1999/00 40.6%
2000/01 42.2%

Source: Oxford University
The statistics indicate that, since the entrance examination was abolished in 1995, state schools' success rates to Oxford have steadily improved.

The findings - presented to the Commons Education Sub-Committee, which is investigating access to higher education - prove that the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, was wrong to suggest the Oxford admissions process was biased against state schools, the Liberal Democrats argue.

Last year, Mr Brown described as "an absolute scandal" the fact that comprehensive-educated pupil, Laura Spence, was rejected by the university.

"Gordon Brown, in the Laura Spence case, alleged that the interview was the problem," said Dr Evan Harris MP, whose constituency includes the university.

"In fact it turns out that it is part of the solution."

'Wrong'

Gordon Brown was wrong, Dr Harris said.

"The country can only hope and pray that his economic analysis proves more accurate than his rather-prejudiced educational analysis," he said.

Laura Spence
Laura Spence's rejection sparked an elitism debate
Rather than lash out at universities, Mr Brown and the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, should restore maintenance grants and scrap tuition fees, Dr Harris said.

"Gordon Brown and David Blunkett were responsible for abolishing grants to poorer students which previously enabled them to enter university without incurring huge debts," he added.

Further data revealed that, of those students who took their degrees last year, the proportion of students from independent schools who gained first-class honours degree was no less than that from the state sector.

"This means that the student intake that is eventually selected by the university does not let in less-able independent school at the expense of comprehensive school students," Dr Harris said.

See also:

06 Oct 00 | League Tables
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