Features / Bristol

Private/state school divide at Bristol Uni

By bristol247, Thursday Jun 9, 2016

The University of Bristol has the second lowest proportion of state school students in England and Wales, leading to fears that a divide between private and state school students may be harming the University’s sense of community.

Data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows that in 2014/15 only 60.1 per cnet of the intake for Bristol came from state schools, the second lowest after the University of Oxford.

This means that the University has a lower intake of state school students than the University of Cambridge (61.8 per cent), Durham University (63.1 per cent) and the University of Exeter (68 per cent).

Conversely, Bristol’s other university, the University of the West of England, boasts a state school intake of almost 95 per cent, whilst Queen Mary London has the highest proportion of any English Russell Group member with 87.9 per cent.

The university also has the most private school students of any university in the UK.

These statistics come out at the same time as a study published by Times Higher Education, ranking the University of Bristol 47th for student experience.

The Student Experience Survey gave the University a score of 78.3, the worst score of which was 5.9 in ‘Good Community Atmosphere’.

Figures obtained by Epigram through a Freedom of Information request show that in the five year period between 2010-2015, only a quarter of applicants come from independent schools, yet over a third of the eventual intake were privately educated.

The university claims that research shows that “state school students are less likely to achieve their predicted grades and meet the terms of their offers”.

They do offer contextualised offers to students from schools perceived to be “low performing”, but explicitly say that they do not take “socio-economic background” or the “type of school attended by the applicant” into consideration.

A spokesperson for the University said: “While there is still more work to be done and challenges to overcome, we are making significant progress and have seen the number of state school students increase in the past four years.

“Latest application figures show an increase in state school applications of 2 per cent on the previous year and a 2.9 per cent increase in applications from low performing schools and colleges.

“We welcome able students from all backgrounds and have an extensive and well-established programme of activities, targeting schools whose students don’t have a strong tradition of applying to universities like Bristol.”

Hannah Dualeh, Bristol Students’ Union’s Widening Participation Officer, told Epigram: “to ensure that our state school student intake is consistent and doesn’t fluctuate each academic year, we should have not only have a state school target, but a quota number.”

Sarah Newey, a 3rd year history student, said: “I think the university needs to do more to attract and encourage students to apply who aren’t from the South East or a big boarding school.”

However, Viv Nathwani, a 3rd year accounting and finance student, felt that students, rather than the university, are to blame. She said: “There is a bias of private school students opting to study here, but I do not feel that any students are preferred by the University.”

Further statistics from the FOI show that a private/state school divide exists, with the majority of privately educated students choosing to live in the same accommodation.

The Stoke Bishop student village accommodates less than half of first year students, yet close to 70 per cent of the private school population choose to live there.

The majority of these students inhabit catered halls in Stoke Bishop; Wills, Hiatt-Baker, Badock and Churchill, with all four boasting a privately educated majority.

An ex-Eton student, who asked to remain anonymous, told Epigram. “It’s so easy to stick with what you know and that familiarity comes with knowing people from your school and others from similar independent schools.”

However, he also spoke of his experiences of inverse snobbery, which he felt contributed to the poor cohesion at the University: “I so often found people shutting me down immediately as soon as the word Eton came out of my mouth.”

This article comes to us courtesy of Epigram, the University of Bristol Independent Student Newspaper. 


Read more: The rise and rise of student halls in Bristol

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