Brent’s Oxbridge application success rates are in London’s ‘bottom 10’

Bottom 10 boroughs for Oxbridge applications

Bottom 10 boroughs for Oxbridge applications - Credit: Archant

Brent’s Oxbridge application success rate is one of the lowest in London at just 17 per cent, with Oxford in particular seeming “out of the question” for one local state school.

Top 10 boroughs for Oxbridge applications

Top 10 boroughs for Oxbridge applications - Credit: Archant

Data obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request reveals that 1081 Brent students applied to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge between 2013-2018, however just under 200 were admitted. But in neighbouring borough Islington, almost one-third of 768 applications to the two top-tier institutions were successful.

Favourable admissions statistics stretch across Camden too, in which more than 400 students were admitted for about 1400 applications, and Haringey, where 335 out of nearly 1200 applications were successful - a rate for both of almost 30pc.

But Brent is different. Tom Bailey, head of sixth from at Brent's Queens Park Community School, told the Times: "As a state school, it's really hard to know what the Oxbridge colleges want from us. The issue isn't so much getting people to apply; it's more that the whole thing is a black box."

Across London, statistics show a tale of two cities: while affluent boroughs with high privately-schooled populations have good success rates, this drops in proportion to deprivation.

Queen's Park Community School

Queen's Park Community School - Credit: Archant

The London boroughs with the highest educational deprivation rates, according to the Indices of Multiple Deprivation data, all have Oxbridge application success rates in the "bottom ten." These are boroughs such as Tower Hamlets, Brent, Barking, Hackney, Newham and Havering, which also have lower levels of privately schooled students.

Mr Bailey continued: "Cambridge has been great in letting in more of our students and answering all our questions. Oxford, on the other hand, is almost going the other way - taking less state school kids and more internationals.

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"We've got way more people applying to Cambridge than Oxford, because the latter just seems impenetrable. And of course we've got a lot of students who don't want to go to either. Our priority is doing what's best for them."

There are signs of a discrepancy between the two universities. In Kensington and Chelsea - a borough in which 52pc of students are privately schooled - double the amount of Oxford admissions were recorded as there were for Cambridge between 2013-18. The reverse is true for worse-off boroughs such as Enfield and Redbridge.

However, there are some boroughs with higher all-round deprivation rates that still do well at Oxbridge, such as Islington, Camden and Haringey - and that's because their educational deprivation rates are relatively low.

Hugh Rayment-Pickard, of the social mobility charity IntoUniversity, said: "There's two big hurdles to success when it comes to Oxbridge. One is the fact that people don't want to apply, and the other, more important one is attainment. If you can't get those top grades from schools that push you, you won't get in."

It is true that numbers of applications also vary dramatically - another way of measuring which students feel "suited" to Oxbridge; and which teachers feel more confident with the process. Barnet, for example, sent about 2500 applications off over five years and Richmond more than 1700. Hackney, however, sent off only 642, Tower Hamlets 550 and Barking about 330.

For boroughs like Brent, in which a lot of people apply but success rates are low, the problem may be more complex.

Mr Rayment-Pickard said: "It is well-known that Oxbridge is yet to recruit representatively from free school meal backgrounds and do more to admit state-schooled students. It's also the case that some colleges have long standing relationships with certain areas. The universities do deserve some credit though for recognising the problem. At least Oxford is publishing their data but Cambridge is yet to do so."

Nevertheless, when compared to the rest of the UK, London's statistics for both universities swamp regions such as the north east and Wales. While total Oxbridge admissions for Greater London between 2013-2018 was more than 7000 students, this figure falls to less than 600 for the north east and about 750 for Wales.

A spokesperson from the University of Oxford responded: "We have a number of outreach measures such as our collegiate regional-link support system. We welcome the chance to consult with any school that would like to build on its relation with Oxford and inspire more of their students to apply."