The Rise of Oxbridge Admissions Specialists
An increasing number of schools are employing admissions specialists to guide their students through their applications to Oxbridge and other competitive universities according to a report by the Centre for Social Justice. With competition for the top university places becoming more fierce, these specialists are being sought after to give applicants an edge by preparing them for all parts of the process, from the UCAS application up to the entrance exam and interview in the case of Oxbridge or Medicine.
For example, Brampton Manor Academy in East Ham employs a university access team consisting of five full-time Oxbridge graduates whose sole focus is supporting university applications. Their students received 51 Oxbridge offers this year, making it comparable to top independent schools. This is made even more impressive by the fact that Brampton Manor is a state comprehensive with a highly selective sixth form which has achieved their success without support from top independent schools or strong links to Oxbridge colleges like other similar schools.
The report suggests that individual Oxbridge colleges should use their access budgets to employ these admissions specialists to work at schools in the most disadvantaged areas. Each Oxford and Cambridge college is assigned certain regions of the country for which they are responsible for increasing Oxbridge access to the students from those regions. They each employ an outreach officer to oversee trips to schools in their regions to host practice interviews for potential Oxbridge candidates and to generally encourage students to apply (including myself). This effort could be extended further if disadvantaged students were given access to a more regular mentor to help guide them through their application and build a more personal relationship with.
Other research indicates that many secondary school teachers do not push their top students in the direction of Oxbridge, with 43% responding saying they “rarely or never” advised gifted pupils to apply to Oxbridge. The three main reasons they cited were that they did not think such pupils would be happy there, they did not think those pupils would perform well academically there or they believed they would not get in. Having this staunch attitude towards Oxbridge results in many students not being presented with the option, which means many hear about it too late to apply or inherit their teachers’ lack of confidence and do not see it as a possibility. A dedicated admissions specialist could build these potential candidates up and give them the confidence to apply to Oxbridge if that is what they want.