Stats show Oxford attracting record numbers of applicants

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Oxford University received a record number of applications this year, whilst demand for Cambridge places dropped after a rise in entry requirements.

Oxford saw 18,325 students apply for places this year, competing for around 3,100 places. Cambridge declined to publish its application numbers this year but last year some 16,720 applications were made for around 3,300 places.

The Oxford application figures represent a record high, with overall demand increasing by five per cent compared to last year. Cambridge, by contrast, stated that it was “not expecting” an increase on last year’s numbers.

This follows Cambridge’s decision to increase its entry requirements this year, with almost half of courses asking for two A*s and an A grade as a minimum at A level. All science, maths and medicine courses at Cambridge now make such requirements. Biology, chemistry, physics, medicine, veterinary medicine, maths, computer science, genetics, psychology, zoology and engineering courses now ask their applicants to achieve at least A*A*A. Only three courses at Oxford have such high entry requirements, maths, maths and philosophy, and maths and statistics. One A* is asked for by most science subjects but the very highest grade is not required for arts courses.

The increase in entry requirements represents Cambridge’s first wholesale increase since the introduction of the A* grade in 2010. However, Cambridge insisted that the raising requirements did not “raise the bar” because over 90 per cent of those who gain places on science courses already achieved at least two A*s at A-level, whilst most successful applicants get three A*s.

A spokesperson for Cambridge University said: “The university believes that the revised offer gives applicants a clearer indication of the level of attainment realistically required to compete for a place, and to thrive on science courses.”

Whilst Oxford entry requirements are lower, 36 out of 46 courses require applicants to sit an aptitude test, in order to compare students who apply with different sixth-form qualifications.

Concerning a possible rise in Oxford entry requirements, a University spokesperson stated: “Any decision to change conditional offer requirements is up to individual subjects, who carefully consider the impact such a change might have on the admissions process.

“Oxford University also uses subject-specific aptitude tests as a fair way of benchmarking the subject aptitude of all candidates, whether they take A levels or not.”

In a separate statement to the OxStu, the University stated: “Through our outreach activities Oxford aims to attract talented candidates from as wide a range of backgrounds and schools as possible. We are pleased that today’s figures suggest we are succeeding in encouraging more bright students than ever before to apply to Oxford.”