Oxford has yet again fallen short of the Government’s targets on state school student intake.In 2008, just 55.4% of the university’s incoming students were state school graduates, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. The government’s benchmark is set at 75.3%.Cambridge continues to enroll more state educated pupils than Oxford. However, while Oxford saw a 2% increase in successful state school applicants, Cambridge experienced of a slight decline in the percentage admitted, compared to last year.Both institutions have contested the validity of the benchmarks, with Oxford officials calling them “unrealistic.”Criticism has focused around the methodology employed since 2004 to calculate targets, which does not distinguish between A-levels and other qualifications when calculating student’s fitness for admission to Oxbridge.The system allocates points to students that can be accumulated in a variety of ways. These range from sitting A-levels, to completing vocational courses, to gaining a certificate in Horse Knowledge & Care from the British Horse Society.Oxford officials say this system artificially inflates the number of applicants deemed qualified for admission. “Admission to Oxford University is based on performance in academic subjects at full A-level that relate to our degree courses,” said a University spokesperson. “Those who actually gain three As at full A-level are numerically a smaller group than those who gain the tariff point equivalent.”Paul Dwyer, OUSU Vice President (Access and Academic Affairs), said he was glad the government had set the targets.“I think that it is commendable that the government has recognised the problem of under-representation of students educated at state schools at university, although feel that they have more work yet to do.”However, he echoed the University’s claim that state schools could not provide enough qualified candidates.“What the government target statistics do not take into account are the number of schools who are actually able to provide candidates who will get 3 As at A Level.“There are simply too many schools in the country who cannot provide the support and teaching resources for students to achieve this aim, which means that meeting the statistic is made a much harder task for the University.”The failure to meet benchmarks places Oxbridge under renewed pressure to widen access, with many students saying they felt more could be done. Jon Mellon, a PPEist at St Anne’s and a state school graduate said OUSU’s Target Schools scheme, which is backed by the University, was “a step in the right direction.” However, he added that he “didn’t get that much direction” from access schemes, aside from an interview training day that “wasn’t much use.”Chancellor Lord Patten has consistently defended Oxford’s record on access. In a speech last year he said, “However hard we try to widen participation at Oxbridge, and I am sure you could say the same at many other universities, there is no chance whatsoever of meeting the socio-economic targets set by agents of government so long as the proportion of students getting A grades in traditional academic A-level subjects at private and maintained schools stays the same. It is as simple as that.”Patten has also suggested that the government could pay for private schools to give special lessons to talented state school pupils applying to university.