If Oxbridge discourages applications from independent schools it could result in a “brain drain” to US universities, ISC chair Barnaby Lenon has said.
The number of UK teenagers heading to US universities has more than doubled in the past decade, sparking fears that numbers could rise if the UK’s top institutions overlook independent school leavers in favour of state-educated applicants.
Recent figures from the ISC Census reveal that the percentage of independently-educated students going to Oxbridge has falled from 6.5 per cent in 2016 to 4.3 per cent last year.
Barnaby Lenon told The Mail on Sunday: “It’s a threat to the world-class status of Oxford and Cambridge and it’s also damaging to the country because a good proportion of the brightest children will never come back. They will fall in love with an American, get a good job in America and stay there.”
Oxford and Cambridge now consider applicants’ social background when giving offers to try to create a better mix of students and pinpoint those with potential from disadvantaged schools.
But Mr Lenon said the changes mean private school pupils are no longer made to feel valued by Oxbridge.
The ISC says that 411 British students went to US universities in 2012, compared to 842 this year.
Mr Lenon said: “Independent schools and grammar schools which get the best results are all being approached by universities from America and being offered, in many cases, big bursaries and scholarships. So there is a brain drain developing.
“Oxford and Cambridge don’t often come to independent schools and say ‘We want you to increase the number of applicants to a college or university’, but we do get a steady stream of people coming from the top universities in the US and saying, ‘We want your best applicants.’”
“Not only are they not discriminating, but they are also positively encouraging in a way that British universities are not.”