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For working-class Britons, Ivies seem friendlier than Oxbridge

Yale and Harvard, modeled after Oxford and Cambridge, are enticing some of the UK's top public-school students away from England's most prestigious universities, the Sunday Times of London reports.

The attractions: friendliness and financial aid.

"I found the atmosphere at Oxford was a bit too old-fashioned," says Iain Barr, son of a school teacher and a lab technician. "Yale was much more focused on allowing the students to explore what they wanted to do."

Another teen, Lucinda Denney, chose Yale over Cambridge in large part because of the generous financial aid: "they really, really want me there."

Altogether, "nine of Britain's brightest state school pupils have turned down places at Oxford and Cambridge, mostly to attend Ivy League universities," the Sunday Times reports:

It is the first time that a group of state-educated pupils has spurned Britain's top two universities and follows a warning from the government's social mobility watchdog that Oxford and Cambridge are failing to meet targets for widening their social mix. Experts predicted that it could be the start of a brain drain of children abroad.

The nine are among 64 students who attended a summer school at Yale last year run by the education charity the Sutton Trust, the newspaper says. The one-week summer program "aims to give bright, non-privileged state school students [from the UK] a taste of life at a US university . . . so that the brightest can take advantage of the incredible opportunities on offer over the Atlantic," says a description on the Yale website.

It seems to have worked: of the 64 Sutton students, 21 are enrolling at US universities. Their average family income is $40,000 a year.

So while Yale College strives to increase its enrollment of low-income American students (14 percent qualified for federal Pell Grants in the fall of 2011, the most recent year available), it is also reaching abroad for economic diversity—to the land of Buckingham Palace and Downton Abbey.

Filed under Oxford, Cambridge, economic diversity
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