Disadvantaged Don’t have Instant Access to early applications

Experts have warned that earlier applications to Cambridge and Oxford universities may create new obstacles for poorer students. The race for a place at Oxbridge traditionally starts sooner than for any other universities, with sixth formers expected to submit their Ucas application forms by 15 October, rather than 25 January for most courses. This year, however, Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing (Caat), which runs admissions tests for some of the most popular courses at both universities, has made its deadline to 1 October.

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This means that students from less privileged backgrounds who may not have the same access to information and support as their peers could find themselves at a disadvantage, according to Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of UCAS.

“There is a risk that the changes to the admissions timetable for some Cambridge courses could widen rather than narrow the gap between the most and least advantaged applicants,” she said.

Caat said it had brought its deadline forward to “give students more time to prepare for their tests”. But Ms Curnock Cook warned that this was “likely to advantage those who are already well informed and supported through the process”.

“It is vital that universities do all they can to close the gap between the most and least advantaged applicants, and this includes ensuring that key information about applying is made available as widely as possible,” she added.

The news comes as both Oxford and Cambridge face criticism for failing to increase their intake of students from disadvantaged backgrounds in recent years.

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Earlier this month, the Social Mobility Commission reported that the proportion of state school pupils offered places at either university had fallen for the first time in nearly three decades. Just over 60% of those accepted to Oxford and Cambridge in 2017 were from state schools, down from 63% the year before.

To address this issue, both universities have recently introduced a range of new initiatives, including schemes to target bright students from low-income families and offer places to those who narrowly miss out on their grades.

But Ms Curnock Cook warned that more needed to be done to ensure that all students had an equal chance of getting into Oxbridge.

“The social mobility challenge in higher education will not be solved by the universities alone,” she said. “Collectively, we all have a role to play in addressing it.”

“That is why Ucas is working with partners across the education system to improve the information and guidance available to young people so they can make well-informed decisions about their future.”

The earlier application deadline for Caat-administered courses at Cambridge and Oxford applies to various subjects, including law, medicine, veterinary medicine and engineering. For more information on applying to Oxbridge, visit the Ucas website.

What do you think about the earlier application deadline for Caat-administered courses at Cambridge and Oxford? Let us know in the comments below.

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