Commenting on the report’s findings, Bahram Bekhradnia, HEPI’s Director, said:
“In terms of the nature of their student bodies, our study reveals, as is well-known, that these are notably skewed in favour of independently educated and better off students, but the report’s findings confirm that this is because of academic, not social, selection and is the result of the unequal outcomes of this country's school system.
“Nevertheless, there is some evidence to suggest that Oxford and Cambridge admit more independent school pupils than is warranted and that their insistence that they will not engage in social engineering but will make decisions about admissions on purely academic grounds leaves them vulnerable to the charge of social elitism. There seems no reason why Oxford and Cambridge should not take a leaf out of the book of some of the great American universities which are explicit that they aim to achieve the best social and ethnic mix they can while always insisting on the highest academic standards."
But Schools being encouraged to stretch the brightest pupils is not sufficient, for the GCSE examination system itself no longer provides the academic rigour required to stimulate young minds. Ed Balls' refusal to allow the Maintained sector to pursue the iGCSE route mitigates against academic excellence.
What I find staggering about the DCFS' approach is that there is an unwillingness to learn from the many examples of best practice that are sitting under its very nose. Sadly the Government seems to want to dumb down the education system and to undermine the success of Independent Schools, which are universally acknowledged as the best schools in the world [Pisa Survey].
Why are we so afraid of academic elites in this country? and why should we be surprised that British independent schools should send a high proportion of pupils to our top two universities?
Oxford and Cambridge - how different are they? Executive Summary HEPI 19/11/2009
Oxbridge 'still dominated by social elite' Daily Telegraph 19/11/2009
Simon Heffer's column: "Oxbridge is clearly guilty of pursuing excellence" 20/11/2009