Oxford University accepts hundreds of students despite downgraded results

Oxford University says it has accepted more than 300 students who missed their grades due to Ofqual’s marking algorithm.

Nearly two in five (39.1%) of teachers’ estimates for A-level pupils in England were adjusted down by one grade or more by exam boards after this summer’s exams were cancelled amid Covid-19.

It left many students missing out on their university places, including admissions to Russell Group universities such as Cambridge and Oxford which require top grades to secure an offer.

Oxford University said it has been looking carefully at the individual circumstances of all applicants who did not meet their grades this year, and has offered places to more than 300 students despite their downgraded results.

A spokesman said the number was “far more than in previous years”, adding: “The overwhelming majority of these are UK state school candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“As a result our UK state school intake this year currently stands at 67.8% – an increase of 5.7% compared to 2019.”

It comes after three of its colleges, Worcester, Wadham and St Edmund Hall, confirmed all places offered to UK students will be secured irrespective of their A-level results.

“This year’s formal gradings are not adding to our knowledge of applicants’ ability to the extent that we could safely conclude that some of those previously selected for offers should now be denied their places,” said Wadham College warden Ken Macdonald.

In its statement, St Edmund Hall said: “To alleviate the anxiety and uncertainty surrounding the appeals process, and uphold our strong strategic commitment to access, equality and diversity in our admissions process, the college has taken the decision to make offers unconditional for all applicants whose places were not originally confirmed.”

Data from Ofqual shows independent schools saw an increase of 4.7% in the number of students securing A or A* grades from 2019, compared with 2% for state schools and just 0.3 percentage points for further education colleges.

On Friday, nearly 3,000 Oxford University graduates called on the institution to show “kindness and generosity” to students whose grades had been “unexpectedly and unfairly downgraded by an algorithm”.

In an open letter, they said: “It cannot be right that bright, hard-working young people from poorer backgrounds have been denied their chance to overcome odds that were already stacked against them.”