Cambridge university should take 93 per cent of its students from state schools in order to reflect the make-up of the UK population, the head of one of its colleges has said, The Sunday Times reports.
Speaking in her first week as president of Murray Edwards College, Dorothy Byrne said the proportion of state-educated students should be representative of society as a whole — and only around 7 per cent of the population attend private schools.
Her statements have prompted backlash from staff and parents in the independent sector, who have called for students to be selected purely on academic merit.
She told the paper: “Private school students need to get over their obsession with getting into Oxford and Cambridge.
“Students from Eton would be very lucky to get into Manchester and Sheffield universities. It might be good for them. They could travel to the north, which might be a bit of a shock for some of them and meet more diverse people.
“I would posit Boris Johnson and David Cameron would have benefited from going to Sheffield University [rather than Oxford].”
Byrne studied philosophy at Manchester followed by a postgraduate diploma in business at Sheffield.
She acknowledged that if Cambridge’s student body did reflect the wider population then fewer students from schools such as Eton, Harrow and Westminster would go to the university.
“But luckily there are more than 100 fantastic other universities private school pupils can go to and when they go to those places they will have the added advantage of meeting people who are not like them,” she said.
Later on Twitter, Byrne clarified that she had “not suggested fixed quotas” for state educated students.
Murray Edwards College is one of 13 colleges due to admit students to a new “foundation year” from 2022 where a number of students from poorer backgrounds will be admitted with lower offers than the current minimum A*AA.
The proportion of state-educated students starting at Cambridge this term is a record-breaking 72 per cent, this compares to nearly 59 per cent in 2011.