By Poppy Askham
Half of the six schools that receive the most offers from Durham University are independent fee-paying institutions.
Eton College received the second-highest number of offers to study at the University, whilst Westminster College placed fourth, according to a Freedom of Information request submitted by The Telegraph.
The top three private schools received a total of 1,030 offers from Durham between 2018 and 2020, whilst the remaining three state schools – Peter Symonds College, Greenhead College, and Hills Road Sixth Form College – received a combined 1,005.
The data showed that the school that received the most offers from the University was Hills Road Sixth Form College. This was closely followed by Eton College and Quingdao Hongguang Foreign Language College, an independent institution with numerous centres located across China.
A spokesperson for Durham University responded to these findings, telling Palatinate: “We actively encourage students from a broad range of backgrounds to apply to Durham, including those who are from backgrounds that are underrepresented in Higher Education”.
Nationally six to seven percent of pupils study at independent fee-paying schools, but the cohort is significantly over-represented at Russell Group Universities.
The number of students admitted to Durham from independent fee-paying schools reached 37.8% in 2020-21, rising for the second successive year.
An investigation by The Independent revealed that private school pupils make up over a quarter of the student body at 22 out of 25 Russell Group universities.
The schools that ranked first place in the number of offers received from Cambridge, Oxford, and Edinburgh were all independent; the latter two awarded the most offers to Eton College students.
However, of the 19 Russell Group universities that provided data, 14, including Durham University, had given the highest number of offers to a state school and 11 listed exclusively state schools in their top five offer recipients.
The University’s spokesperson was keen to stress that the institution has a number of schemes in place that focus on increasing the number of students from “low participation neighbourhoods”, including a Supported Progression scheme targeted at local students and a Schools Membership Scheme for schools with high proportions of students from under-represented backgrounds.
This month, the Race family from Northumberland donated £1m to a scholarship fund for young people from low-income backgrounds in the North East to study at Durham. It will provide £4,000 a year to four local students of History and Liberal Arts. Student Grace Purnell said the scholarship opened up a “field of opportunities”.
The University spokesperson also acknowledged the need for progress, stating: “We are not complacent and we are constantly making improvements to our admissions and support systems for all students, and especially for those who are under-represented at Durham University.”
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