Oxbridge colleges named and shamed

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JIM CURRAN
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Oxbridge colleges named and shamed

Post by JIM CURRAN » Mon Dec 14, 2015 7:51 am

Oxbridge colleges named and shamed for failing to admit poorer students
Oxford would need to increase intake by 25% to meet own benchmark, says report

http://www.theguardian.com/education/20 ... d-students

kenm
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Re: Oxbridge colleges named and shamed

Post by kenm » Fri Dec 18, 2015 3:48 pm

Successive administrations have tried to hive off the responsibility for social mobility onto the universities, while reducing State financing for undergraduates in a manner that inevitably leads to the universities needing to act more commercially. I am sorry that Oxford and Cambridge accepted the benchmarks for admissions to which the article refers, particularly since admissions are effectively controlled by the colleges. At Cambridge, the University sets an approximate level of academic learning as follows:

“The typical conditional A Level offer for arts subjects and for Psychological and Behavioural Sciences for 2016 entry will be A*AA.

“The typical conditional A Level offer for science subjects (excluding Psychological and Behavioural Sciences) for 2016 entry will be A*A*A.”,

but colleges will usually choose among candidates who exceed these results or have other characteristics that provide evidence of their ability to thrive in an academic environment that is faster paced than that at most other UK universities.

Damien Shannon writes:

“The decision on admissions is made by the colleges and not the faculty for undergraduates. I have always thought that was a mistake. I don’t know how a college can divorce an academic decision from the knowledge that a candidate who comes with resources may be more useful for the college in the future.

“I do not think it is any coincidence that the richest colleges are the ones who seem minded to accept the richest applicants.”

Only one Cambridge college is named in the article, Robinson, which is the most recently founded of all Cambridge colleges (c. 1980). On a list of capitalisation in descending order it lies 26th of 31, those below it in this list all having fewer undergraduates, so the richer colleges are all doing better by state applicants. A journalist's typical statistically insignificant data point turns out not even to support the assertion to which it relates.

Until state primary schools can all teach literacy and numeracy to reasonable standards and all able 11-year olds can attend secondary schools with staff who can prepare them to Oxbridge entry levels, attacks such as those described in the article are the pot calling the kettle black.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

kenm
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Re: Oxbridge colleges named and shamed

Post by kenm » Sun Dec 20, 2015 4:37 pm

Two letters in the Guardian and the Observer.

In defence of Oxford:
Tim Lankester wrote:Undergraduates at Oxford are selected by college tutors and their faculties, not by college administrators (“Oxbridge colleges named and shamed for failing to admit disadvantaged students”, News). Tutors have no interest in what kind of school applicants come from. In my experience as head of a college and chairman of the undergraduate admissions system, if there is any ingrained bias, it is in favour of state schools. The sole criterion for admission is whether tutors believe applicants are adequately prepared for the rigours of an Oxford degree and whether they have the potential to do well. Given the more intensive teaching and other resources that private school pupils typically enjoy, it is hardly surprising that a much higher proportion are able to demonstrate academic aptitude.

For many years, Oxford has been trying to improve the percentage of undergraduates from state schools. There are no quick fixes. Contextual information can and does help inform the judgment about preparedness but can’t change it fundamentally. Admitting students who are going to struggle does them no favours. Changing the syllabus so as to make it more accessible is another possibility, but that raises wider issues.

Giving administrators power over admissions so as to override the judgment of tutors isn’t necessarily the answer either. At elite American universities, where admissions are largely in the hands of administrators, they typically perpetuate privilege by giving preference to the offspring of alumni.
The first paragraph is close to my own understanding. The last sentence of the second raises an interesting point: I believe that the concentrated courses typical of Oxbridge are an important element in their success in educating talented students to the level at which they can undertake research at a young enough age. This is particularly important in pure mathematics, in which many past researchers have had all their best ideas before the age of thirty, but also applies to the mathematical sciences, which nowadays include chemistry and biochemistry; physics and engineering have depended on mathematics since 1687 and c. 1800 respectively.

In defence of one State comprehensive:
Karin Forbes wrote:You equate state educated with disadvantaged, which is deplorable. My two sons both went to the local comprehensive and neither of them is in any way disadvantaged. The younger one will graduate from Oxford next summer.
One school is not a significant sample. Not all secondary pupils are so lucky.

It would be interesting to know what proportion of State secondary schools a) prepare Oxbridge applicants for and b) prepare succesful Oxbridge entrants to undergraduate courses.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

geraldinecarter
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Re: Oxbridge colleges named and shamed

Post by geraldinecarter » Mon Dec 28, 2015 9:01 am

This is broader than just Oxbridge but is a good indication of University entrants:
http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/ed ... ry-figures

A point that hasn't been raised is that private school teachers often have good contacts with Oxbridge Tutors. This is true also of State schools but I suspect that it's private schools with a much stronger network.

kenm
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Re: Oxbridge colleges named and shamed

Post by kenm » Mon Dec 28, 2015 11:14 am

geraldinecarter wrote:...A point that hasn't been raised is that private school teachers often have good contacts with Oxbridge Tutors. This is true also of State schools but I suspect that it's private schools with a much stronger network.
In what way do you think they exploit such contacts? I would guess that the schools that are more successful at preparing Oxbridge entrants have senior teachers with a better understanding of the academic abilities that Oxbridge Tutors expect to see in an acceptable applicant and staff who can teach to those standards. This, also, would be more common in the private schools.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

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