Oxford receives more applications than Cambridge again

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Oxford has continued to receive more undergraduate applicants than Cambridge this year, 15% more than its long time rival. Although some have attributed this to Oxford’s attempts to improve student access from less privileged backgrounds others have also cited Cambridge’s tougher A-level grade requirements.

Record numbers of teenagers have applied to both institutions this year, an increase of 1,044 that brings the total up to 35,843 prospective Oxbridge students for 2016/17. It is Oxford, however, that continues to attract more applicants despite offering fewer places than Cambridge. The trend has been particularly stark this year with 19,124 teenagers seeking to apply to Oxford compared to 16,719 looking to get into Cambridge. This is largely explained by the differing admissions approaches of the two institutions. This year prospective Cambridge students will need to achieve the highest grades – nearly half of all their courses now require at least two A*s.

The trend has been particularly stark this year with 19,124 teenagers seeking to apply to Oxford compared to 16,719 looking to get into Cambridge.

Although both institutions reached agreements with the Office for Fair Access a few years ago, some have highlighted Oxford’s more aggressive outreach policies as a reason for the difference. Speaking to ‘The Telegraph’ Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, emphasised Oxford admissions targets as a key factor. “[Oxford] has taken into account contextual factors and it has reserved a number of places for students from who have been entitled to free school meals. Oxford is also encouraging people from a diversity of backgrounds to apply.”

Oxford University has reacted positively to the news although a spokesperson made clear that it is too early to seek a definite explanation. Dr Julia Paolitto, a Media Relations Manager from the University, said: “While it’s too early to be able to attribute our increase in applications to any one particular factor, we would take it as a positive sign that the increase in our outreach activity (and effective targeting of groups most under-represented at Oxford) is having an impact on our applications.”

Roughly 29,143 applicants were not successful at securing a place this year, a 4% increase on last year. A-Level results are released on Thursday.