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Higher Education

Is the Bristol boycott biting?

The row last year over Bristol University's decision to offer lower entrance grades to disadvantaged state-school pupils has been followed by a drop in the number of applications, according to latest UCAS figures

Independent school heads led a high-profile campaign last summer against the university's policy and applications have since fallen 5 per cent. The data relate to applications made by the January 15 deadline. The university is now analysing them by school type.

"It would be curious if the boycott by some independent schools - short-lived and inappropriate though it was - had had no effect," says a Bristol spokesperson, "but we do not have the statistics to do anything more than speculate."

Martin Stephen, chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) and high master of Manchester Grammar School, adds: "All the HMC can ask of universities is that they are transparent. There is no boycott. In the final analysis, it is the consumer who makes the choice."

Last summer, the HMC hit the headlines when it suggested independent school pupils should not be encouraged to apply to Bristol until the university could demonstrate that: "its procedures are fully documented, fair, objective, transparent and consistently applied."

Other universities, including Nottingham, Durham, Edinburgh and the London School of Economics, were also criticised by the HMC. Nottingham has since seen applications fall by 6 per cent.

Applications are also down at Durham but up at Edinburgh and the LSE. Overall, Derby University has experienced the biggest fall, with an 11 per cent drop in applications made through UCAS.

Winners and losers in HE applications
(UCAS statistics at 31 January 2004)

· University of Wales College of Medicine: up 26 per cent
· Hertfordshire University: up 23 per cent
· Kingston University: up 18 per cent
· St Andrews University: up 17 per cent
· Oxford Brookes University: up 14 per cent

· Derby University: down 11 per cent
· London Metropolitan University: down 10 per cent
· Aston University: down 9 per cent
· Teesside University: down 7 per cent
· Nottingham Trent University: down 7 per cent




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