Get a place at Oxbridge by Leaving Your Private School and Joining a State School

I’m often asked by parents, ‘How do we secure a place at Oxford or Cambridge?’ and while I’m happy to dispense general advice, the truth is that there is no winning formula.

Each applicant to Oxford or Cambridge University is selected by a panel, and members of the panel look for different qualities from student to student. They will look at the academic successes, of course, but when 28,000 students apply to Oxbridge with straight A grades, they have to delve deeper in the personality and abilities of those students to find that spark – that one thing that will set them apart from their peers.

Nor is it as simple as joining the chess club, the debating team, becoming the cricket captain and doing charity work since the age of 5. Again, most of the other candidates are brilliant, caring, and sporty too.

It’s far more likely that what will make a student shine out is the unrehearsed, unplanned responses to the panel’s questions… Something that shows honesty, integrity, thoughtfulness, and the ability to work through a problem clearly and intelligently.

However, with the government’s benchmark on applications to university which mandates that half of those accepted to each university must be from state schools, are we finding that those brilliant students at private schools are being penalised?

After all, they are being educated with that ultimate goal of a place of Oxbridge in mind, but now the number of places available to them are halved.

So here’s a controversial idea: Remove your son or daughter from their independent school, place them in the local state school, and employ a full-time private tutor to provide after school, weekend and holiday support to maintain the highest educational standards.

I hear time and again the argument that there are bright, capable students at state schools, who deserve to go to Oxford and Cambridge. The truth of the matter is that they may well be bright and capable, but they are competing with children educated at the very best independent schools for those university places, and many of them just have not had the education at state school that equips them for that level of academic study.

How can we maintain the centuries-old tradition of turning out the very best intellectuals from our elite universities if we’re watering down the stock? I’m not saying state schools pupils are not capable of winning a place, but they must do so against all the other applicants, whatever their background. The UK has no private universities, unlike the US, where removing state-imposed applicant benchmarks enables universities to admit whomever they want to. We need to preserve the UK’s knowledge economy and position as world-class providers of education excellence.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Tutors International criticises university application controls and suggests how students might secure a place at Oxbridge | My Blog

[…] schools, as a private tutor, and is a world-renowned Independent Educational Consultant, has published an article today [1] that suggests how students could win a place at the prestigious Cambridge or Oxford […]


The UK does indeed have a private university. The University of Buckingham, established in the 1970s.