There is no doubt that competition for Oxbridge, G5 and Russell Group universities has intensified because Top UK universities are under pressure to accept more applications from high performing state school students, thus limiting the number of independent school applicants that they will accept.

This intensified competition is further complicated by the statistical adjustment required to A Level grade following exam arrangements during the pandemic. The ‘grade inflation’ caused by over-enhanced Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs) and Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs) which was seen between 2020-21 will be addressed in 2022 and 2023, with grade profiles gradually reducing to 2019 levels. In 2021, A-level results were a record high with 44.8% getting A* or A grades. In 2020, the figure was 38.5%. Therefore, the proportion getting top A* and A grades has risen by almost 75% since the last time conventional exams were taken in 2019. In 2019 top grades were 25%.  As a result, universities currently find it difficult to identify who the top candidates really are when they make their undergraduate offers to students.

Therefore, both students and parents, at independent and state schools, need to be fully aware that the need for expert independent advice and guidance had never been more important. Applicants seeking places at top universities must have an outstanding academic profile, be able to demonstrate a clear desire to study their chosen undergraduate subject and have engaged with the super-curricular. Individual applications will be scrutinised by universities and the need to stand out from other applicants is critical, so the immediate impact of a student’s UCAS Personal Statement is vital.

Education Advisers Ltd are expert in providing exactly the sort of advice and coaching that such a student requires in this increasingly complex and competitive application process.

Oxbridge: State school pupils made up 72% of Cambridge's intake in 2021 (up from 70.6% in 2020 &68.7% in 2019). Cambridge had a benchmark of 76% for state school intake in 2020. Oxford had a benchmark of 75.5%, but actually took just under 70%.

Private / independent schools educate just 7% of UK children. For VIth (Sixth) Form, the figure is 12%.

Vice Chancelor of Cambridge, Professor Stephen Toope, said ‘…. we have to keep making it very, very clear we are intending to reduce over time the number of people who are coming from independent school backgrounds into places like Oxford or Cambridge… Individual students who are talented, we would want them, but they are going to compete against a larger and larger group because there are more students coming from (state) schools who see a potential place for them at Cambridge or Oxford or other Russell Universities in the group”.

Destination of UK independent school pupils attending Top 25 UK universities: The vast majority of UK independent school leavers go on to higher education. In 2021, 92% of those continuing to university did so in the UK. 5.3 % of those going to UK universities went to Oxford or Cambridge, while the majority of others gained access to a Top 25 university.

  1. University of Exeter: 5.0%
  2. Durham University: 4.7%
  3. University College London: 4.2%
  4. University of Nottingham: 4.0%
  5. University of Edinburgh: 3.9%
  6. University of Bristol: 3.7%
  7. University of Manchester: 3.2%
  8. University of Leeds: 3.2%
  9. University of Newcastle upon Tyne: 3.1%
  10. University of Birmingham: 2.9%
  11. University of Cambridge: 2.7%
  12. University of Warwick: 2.6%
  13. University of Oxford: 2.6%
  14. University of Bath: 2.3%
  15. King's College London: 2.2%
  16. Loughborough University: 2.2%
  17. Imperial College London: 2.1%
  18. University of Cardiff: 2.0%
  19. University of Liverpool: 1.8%
  20. Nottingham Trent University: 1.8%
  21. Oxford Brookes University: 1.7%
  22. University of York: 1.6%
  23. University of Glasgow: 1.6%
  24. University of St Andrews: 1.6%
  25. University of Shefield: 1.4%


Destination of ISC pupils going to non-UK universities: Countries: Of the 5% who access universities outside of the UK, the USA is the largest destination, attracting 42.7% of UK independent school pupils who went overseas.

  1. USA: 42.7%
  2. Other: 10.9%
  3. Canada: 7.7%
  4. Hong Kong: 6.6%
  5. Netherlands: 5.5%
  6. Spain: 5.5%
  7. France: 3.6%
  8. Germany: 3.1%
  9. Italy: 3.1%
  10. Switzerland: 2.6%
  11. Ireland: 2.6%
  12. Australia: 2.5%
  13. Japan: 2.0%
  14. China: 1.4%


What Can Education Advisers Provide? Education Advisers Ltd has a multitude of written and video resources which are free to view or download. We also have a university consultant with 35+ years experience, who heads up our university advice service and can provide comprehensive bespoke packages, or one-off services as required. Please contact Steven, our Senior Educational Consultant, at / +44(0)1622 813870 to discuss how Education Advisers Ltd can support your pathway to university.