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UK University applications falling, #Oxbridge rising #UCAS @ann_yip @cherwell_online

It is reported that applications to UK universities for the academic year 2014/15 have fallen 4% while applications to Oxford and Cambridge Universities have risen. The University of Cambridge received more than 16,500 applications for 2014/2015, the highest number since records began and a rise of around 4% compared to applications for the previous year. Moreover, this rise has been proportionately higher in subjects such as Medicine and Law.

This may be explained by the rise in tuition fees, now of course fully implemented, and the fact that students are dissuaded from studying non-vocational subjects for purely academic reasons. Alternatively, a spike in Oxbridge applicants could be explained by the rising number of top applicants and ever increasing difficulty of distinguishing them.

The reduction in applications across the UK might also be attributed to controversial immigration reforms, which have reduced the number of international students who come to the UK. True to the age of populist politics feeding populist journalism, the Government have been able to tackle absolute numbers of immigrants in ‘quick-fix’ fashion, targeting so-called fake university applicants rather than addressing the underlying problem, but in doing so may have scared away thousands of bona fide candidates and much needed foreign spending.

One thing remains a fact, that the UK’s higher education system remains one of its strongest exports. Seeing students dressed in uniform around the world playing our very British sports may be a legacy of colonialism, but there is also an appreciation internationally for the standard of British educational institutions, or at least its form. Hence the appeal for ‘franchise’ schools abroad including Tonbridge and North London collegiate. Universities and MBA courses have also followed suit, with Nottingham having dedicated campuses in Malaysia and Insead, a business school creating a campus in Singapore as a twin to its French campus in Fontainebleau.



#Oxbridge Admissions: Current views #Oxbridgeinterviews #UCAS #Oxbridgediversity @tabcambridge @cherwell_online

A set of interesting articles from both the New Statesman and the Guardian in the annual news pieces which give their thoughts on the admisisons process. Populated by a plethora of Oxbridge-educated journalists, the various publications try to dissect or undermine the admissions process each year.

In Summary:

  • Interview is an art not a science
  • There is an element of luck
  • College choices can have a disproportionate effect on your chances of success
  • Journalists VIEWS are that “Oxbridge does remain disproportionately populated by the bourgeois and well-heeled, but whether this is the fault of the admissions process or some external factor is very far from clear”
  • Admissions tutors do not try to torment applicants in a ‘trial by fire’
  • Admissions tutors take into account contextual info like social background and school quality as well as academic factors
  • Personality matters
  • Admissions tutors also make subjective decisions about marginal candidates for whom the process could go either way, effectively ruling someone in or out according to their whim
  • Subjective judgements about how to balance grades, confidence and background are also made
  • The tutors may consider the dynamic of the group of students that they recruit



Admissions:Film about Elite #Universityadmisisons #Oxbridge #UKuniversities

Below is an interesting article on the 2013 film – Admissions. It gives a perspective of the lack of diversity and affirmative actions taken at British universities as compared with its US counterparts. The author makes some compelling arguments, but notably omits the role of class within British society and the impact of the public v private schooling systems.


Lacking a Welsh Forum at #Oxbridge #UCAS

Attacks on the lack of diversity at Oxford and Cambridge Universities are not uncommon and certainly well publicised. However, it is surprising to find that this does not apply only to gender, race and religion, but also to the Welsh.

A recent report by the Former Welsh secretary Paul Murphy, tasked with getting more students into Oxford and Cambridge, found that Welsh students may be put off from applying to Oxbridge because of a lack of support and academic self-confidence.

The universities claim that they have been working hard with schools and teachers in Wales to address this problem.

Mock Oxbridge study room #oxbridge #universityapplications

This sixth form college has taken an interesting step towards study. It has recreated a mock Don’s study, complete with wood panels and rustic furnishings, apparently in order to inspire students.

With the interview process posing an exceptionally intimidating atmosphere for the majority of students, this is an interesting way of simulating the actual environment that students will have their tutorials in. But does it justify the 10k spending? Perhaps it is the prospect of the fierce intellect about to interview them, rather than the surroundings, which perpetuate most interviewee anxiety?


Physics & Philosophy application #oxforduniversity #oxbridge #universityapplications

I have just finished studying Physics and Philosophy at Brasenose College, Oxford. For those of you thinking of applying for this course, I should warn you that it’s tough, but that it definitely pays off! I wanted to study the degree course which would teach me the most about the world, how it works and what’s in it – and I reckon I made the right choice.

In terms of university and college choice: Cambridge doesn’t offer Physics and Philosophy, so that one was straightforward and I went for Balliol which has the biggest intake for the course. However, I got reassigned pre-interview to Brasenose, as it turns out all the Physics and Philosophy applicants apply to Balliol and they don’t have space for everyone. Which college you go for doesn’t affect your chances of getting in, but I loved Brasenose because it was relatively small, friendly and has a great Philosophy of Physics tutor.
The application involves a test in Physics and Maths called the Physics aptitude test (PAT) details of which can be found here http://www2.physics.ox.ac.uk/study-here/undergraduates/applications/physics-aptitude-test-pat. It is worth making sure you understand all the Physics and Maths you have done up to and including AS level and practising using the sample paper on the website.
It is often said that personal statement isn’t that important for Oxford, however you should make sure it reads well, demonstrates your interest in the subject, what extra reading you have done, and has no grammatical or spelling mistakes. My personal statement was primarily a list of different books I had read – a really good place to find out what type of philosophy interests you, and to get some reading done on relevant topics is the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Just Google it and browse. The bibliographies have a lot of suggestions for interesting books or articles to look at. For the Physics reading I looked at a few copies of the New Scientist, though you should be slightly sceptical about some of their claims.
I had a total of five interviews: three in Brasenose in Physics, Maths and Philosophy and two further ones in Balliol in Physics and Philosophy. The Philosophy interviews were for the most part enjoyable; I was asked questions like ‘is the mind physical?’ and ‘can one change the past?’ and each answer I gave was challenged until I ran out of arguments. It worked much like a tutorial, and I learnt quite a fair bit about a philosophy in the process. My most important piece of advice would be not to speak until you have worked out what to say. It is far better to be silent than to babble. For the Physics and Maths interviews I was asked some questions I didn’t know how to answer, the point was to see how quickly I learnt. I felt that those ones went awfully, but I got in so they can’t have been that bad!
Overall the whole process is really nerve-racking, and kind of exhausting, but it’s worth it. And you should remember that no-one finds it easy.

Oxford & Cambridge in world top 10 again #oxbridge #worlduniranking #arwu


University of Oxford were quick to tweet this ranking, and both Cambridge and Oxford were both in the top 10.

It’s certainly a very American offering, but the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) claims to have a very robust and data-driven approach.

They also have a subject breakdown, with Oxford faring strongly in maths and Cambridge doing well in all of the sciences as we may expect.

It’s worth bearing in mind however, that this research seems very focused on publication output rather than teaching.

Good Luck to all the #A-level students with their results! #A-levelresults #Oxbridge #university #examresults

The team would like to wish everyone the best today.

Preparing to read Maths at Cambridge University #maths #oxbridgemaths

Hi, I’m Harry and I’ve just finished my first year as a mathematics student (or a ‘mathmo’ as we are called here) at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. In my blog I’m going to write a few short paragraphs on why I chose maths, my college and ultimately, what the application process itself was like and how I successfully prepared for it.

At school maths had always been something I really enjoyed and found I had a ‘natural’ ability for so applying to study it at university seemed like a natural progression. My Cambridge application seemed like a daunting prospect with so many things to think about. What college do I choose? How do I prepare for my interview? Are the interviewers going to ask me some really wacky questions I’ll have no chance in hell of answering? When I got down to it these things were a lot less stressful than I had imagined.

Firstly choosing a college. It turns out that college choice really doesn’t have much bearing on whether you get in or not. A system called pooling means that the colleges talk to each other to make sure that the applicants who will get an offer do get an offer.  I suppose trinity has the strongest reputation for maths in Cambridge but ultimately it won’t matter because if they don’t have space then they will hopefully find a college that does.

Something unique to maths is the number of offers they give out to applicants. They give out double the number of offers they have to places for because you have the added hurdle of the STEP exams, the only advice I can give for this is start early (like now!) as practice really does make perfect.

The interview itself is also quite unique to maths, forget questions like ‘why cambridge’, ‘why x college’ or your interests outside of maths. The interview itself will most likely just focus on maths and how you approach problems. The key is being able to show your interviewer how you think. They want to get inside your head to see how you tick so make sure you express all your (mathematical) thoughts aloud. This helps when you have no idea what they are talking about because you can try and explain the bits you do understand. Some colleges require a test before hand which you will discuss and go over the questions in the interview itself so make sure you look at that before you apply to a certain college (do you enjoy explaining things aloud or doing them quietly in an exam setting?).

Do not stress out after the interview. You will never know how it went (well usually never). If it was easy, then you might just be a genius! If it was hard then they might have pushed you to your limit. You can just never tell. The point is to challenge you and move you out of your comfort zone.

You can, however, prepare a little for the application process by reading some books. I personally read some of the Olympiad primer books, which seemed to help me think a little more abstractly even though I’m hopeless at the maths challenge. Algebra and geometry is also rather interesting and incredibly useful for the first year if you want to have a look at some more advanced material as well as making you think a little more deeply about the subject. The best way to prepare is probably to do some STEP I questions as these are set up in a way they try and make you think in interview and you will be getting ahead for if you do get an offer.

Good luck with your applications! I shall be writing another post shortly about STEP and how to start preparing for it early.