Oxford and Cambridge Universities have offered places to two Uxbridge College students.

A-level students Timothy Harding (pictured right) and Hasibullah Samsor (middle) have proved their non-traditional backgrounds in education are no bar to gaining entry to the world-class institutions.

Their offers show that ‘Oxbridge’ is a real option for any capable student, challenging common misconceptions about ‘typical’ undergraduates being from private schools. While the universities do see more applications from the independent sector, numbers from state schools are steadily increasing. Neither Timothy nor Hasibullah gained the high numbers of top grade GCSEs often believed necessary, and both took time out of education before studying A-levels at Uxbridge College.

Timothy (24), from Pinner, who has received an offer to read Physics at Brasenose College, Oxford, admits to being “not particularly well-behaved” at sixth form, where he failed to meet his academic potential, and at the time felt strongly that university was not for him. He took time out and worked in various jobs, including as a shop assistant and a lifeguard, before making the decision to aim for Oxford and returning to study.

Hasibullah (21), from Ruislip, who is due to go to Girton College, Cambridge, to read Engineering, came to the UK from Afghanistan three years ago. He worked in retail, earning his way while battling visa restrictions which prevented him from coming to College.

Timothy said: “I really didn’t think I was going to get in as my GCSEs are mostly Bs, including a B in physics, and I've had to do my A-levels twice, but Oxbridge entry is not about your background and qualifications. In fact 90% of the entry requirement is to do with the admissions test and interview process. Oxford and Cambridge are looking for well-rounded people, so whatever you’ve been doing in past years and even if your GCSEs aren’t that good, you can still do it.”

Hasibullah said: “At first, I did not think of going to Cambridge because I was not aware of how the system worked, but I got a lot of help and support from the College. Getting into Cambridge is not only about your grades, which are only a fraction of the process. The whole process includes several tests and the main part is the interview - if you do consider applying, you must keep these things in mind. I have learned that if you want your studies to help you further in life, you have to study very hard to overcome the competition - and hard work always pays off. Uxbridge College is one of the best Colleges and I can say that from my own experience.”

Both students had to pass the universities’ admission exams and get through stringent interviews with a panel of academics, and their offers are conditional - Hasibullah’s on gaining three A* grades and Timothy’s on gaining one A* and two A grades. Both students were given support in preparing for interview from Amanda Washbrook (pictured left), herself a Cambridge graduate.

Amanda Washbrook, Head of Uxbridge College Academy, the department which teaches A-levels, GCSEs and vocational science, said: “When students are making the choice of where to study A Levels they don’t always realise that Uxbridge College offers a route to many prestigious and world-class universities, including Oxford and Cambridge. We always offer the highest level of support to students wanting to do this, in their academic studies, through the UCAS process, and in preparing for any entrance tests and interviews. Huge congratulations to Timothy and Hasibullah whom I am sure will make the very best of their time at university and whose success will certainly inspire other students to aim high.”