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Northern students ‘15 times less likely to reach elite universities’

The access chasm dividing north and south England is huge, new figures reveal.

A child growing up in parts of southern England is 15 times more likely to reach a leading university than one in a Linacre target area, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Labour MP David Lammy.

Between 2010 and 2015, students from Barnsley in South Yorkshire won just five offers from Cambridge. This winter Barnsley-based Linacre applicants could double that figure in a single year.

In the same period, students from the southern authority of Hertfordshire won 987 Cambridge offers. Those from a single London borough (Richmond-upon- Thames) won 318.

The figures suggest that, per head of population, Richmond sends 15 times as many students to Oxford and Cambridge as Barnsley.

Mr Lammy used the figures to castigate Oxford and Cambridge. However, Linacre Executive Director Paul Coupar-Hennessy challenged that interpretation.

“Our experience is that Cambridge in particular are doing everything they possibly can to offer northern state students places,” said Mr Coupar-Hennessy.

“But universities can’t give places to students who don’t have the confidence to apply, the skills to access the courses, or the required grades.

“These figures show how much needs to be done to boost the confidence and expertise of very able northern students – and of their schools – so these terrific young people have a fair chance in the increasingly competitive race for places at top universities.”

More than a quarter of Cambridge offers went to students from just eight of the 173 English local authorities. The big eight are all in southern England. However, these are also the regions from which most sixth-formers apply (see graphic from The Daily Telegraph, below).

Between 2010 and 2015, applicants from four Home Counties (Hertfordshire, Surrey, Kent, Oxfordshire) won more Cambridge offers (2,953) than those from than the whole of the North of England (2,619).

At Oxford, 48% of offers went to applicants from London and the South East, compared to 15% from the North West, North East, Yorkshire and the Humber.

The full data accessed by Mr Lammy are available here.