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Geography PhD Student finds Schools in the South-East of England dominate access to Oxbridge

Posted on 23/08/2016
Elite state schools in London and the South-East of England have become ‘feeder schools’ to Oxbridge, increasing inequality in access to England’s top universities, according to new research by a King’s PhD student.

It has long been known that students from schools in London and the South-East of England are disproportionately overrepresented at both Oxford and Cambridge but research undertaken by Sol Gamsu, a final year PhD student, has identified the extent that access to England’s two top universities varies between regions. The results which form part of Gamsu’s PhD thesis are due to be presented at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual International Conference later this month.

Using data released by the Department of Education in 2015, Gamsu analysed at a regional level areas when more students than expected attend Oxbridge given the population size of schools in a region.

The study found that schools in the South-East of England are overrepresented at Oxbridge, sending 1.46 times more students than the national average while schools in the North of England and the Midlands are underrepresented. In the North-West alone, 0.57 times fewer students than the national average attend Oxbridge. Schools in the West Midlands send 0.77 times fewer students than the national average. Meanwhile, schools in the South-West of England have attendance close to the national average.

Gamsu’s study also indicates that a number of elite state schools are beginning to establish the same symbiotic relationships with Oxbridge as elite private schools. These feeder schools are mostly grammars but include a few sixth form colleges and comprehensives.

‘In many ways, the rise of these ‘super-state’ grammar schools represents the complete undoing of comprehensive school reform, as the attempt to produce a more equal school system has been deliberately dismantled and highly competitive elite state schools have been allowed to rise,’ said Gamsu.

He added: ‘This study suggests that expanding the grammar school system will not redress the inequality in access to Oxbridge. Not only are elite state schools contributing to inequality in access in their local areas, they show a clear geographical bias towards London and the South-East, the causes of which will not be addressed if the grammar system is expanded.’

Sol Gamsu’s research will be presented at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual International Conference, held in London, on Wednesday 31 August 2016. The conference runs 30 August – 2 September 2016.

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