Private students could switch to state schools to get into Cambridge in bid to cheat the system, experts warn – as figures show those who move from fee-paying schools to grammar or sixth-form education are a third more likely to get in
- Students who stayed at private schools for sixth form are less likely to get in
Private school pupils are a third more likely to get into Cambridge if they move to a state sixth form.
Students who stayed at private schools for GCSEs and A-levels had an acceptance rate of 19 per cent last year, figures show.
But those who moved from a fee-paying school to a grammar school or sixth form college had a higher rate of 25 per cent. It has sparked warnings that parents will try and cheat the system by switching schools in the hopes of getting into a top university.
Iain Mansfield, head of education at Policy Exchange, said the data suggests that universities are discriminating against private school pupils.
‘This demonstrates why universities should be selecting on ability, not discriminating based on a child’s background,’ he told The Daily Telegraph. If necessary, Ucas should move to background-blind admissions to ensure that every child is treated fairly.’
Private school pupils are a third more likely to get into Cambridge University (pictured) if they move to a state sixth form
Cambridge’s acceptance rate for private schools over the last five years has averaged 23 per cent, Freedom of Information data revealed.
Amid a drive to increase state school numbers, the rate has dropped from more than 27 per cent in 2018 to 19 per cent last year.
In contrast, since 2018, the acceptance rate for privately educated children who switched at 16 to a grammar or sixth form has averaged around 26 per cent.
In 2022, the acceptance rate for those who switched to a sixth form college was 24 per cent. For those who changed to a grammar school, it was 25 per cent.
The figures were almost 33 per cent higher than the 19 per cent acceptance rate for youngsters at private schools, according to The Daily Telegraph. A spokesman for Cambridge said: ‘The University of Cambridge operates a holistic admissions process that aims to identify students with the greatest academic ability and potential.
‘As one of the factors in that assessment, our admissions tutors are able to assess academic achievement, at both A-level and GCSE level, in the context of where an applicant has studied.
‘Everyone at Cambridge deserves their place.’
Of the 24 Russell Group universities questioned by the Freedom of Information request, only Cambridge, Durham, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and Queen Mary University of London are monitoring applicant data, it emerged.
From 2018 to last year, students at Queen Mary who were privately educated until 16 and then moved to a comprehensive had an average acceptance rate of 18 per cent.
In the last five years at the London School of Economics (pictured), the average acceptance rate is highest for private school pupils at just under 14 per cent
Those that switched to an academy or a grammar had an acceptance rate of around 16 per cent.
Just under 15 per cent of those who applied after remaining at private school were accepted.
At Durham, their highest acceptance rate since 2018 was for students who had been to a comprehensive and switched to a private for A-level, at more than 22 per cent. And in the last five years at LSE, the average acceptance rate is highest for private school pupils at just under 14 per cent.
A Russell Group spokesman said: ‘Our universities are committed to tackling educational inequality, and are determined to ensure everyone with the talent and drive to access higher education has the opportunity to do so. Their priority is to identify candidates with the most talent, ability and potential to excel on their courses, whatever their social or educational background.
‘Over the past eight years the gap between the most and least represented students at English Russell Group universities has closed by around 40 per cent and our members have set ambitious targets to build on that progress.’