(CNN)Elite UK universities Oxford and Cambridge are renowned for stringent admissions policies and student populations weighted in favor of private schools, but one state school has had remarkable success in bucking that trend.
Most 'Oxbridge' students are privately educated. One state school bucks this trend in a big way
Brampton Manor Academy has revealed that 41 of its students have received offers to study at Oxford or Cambridge, collectively known as Oxbridge, the highest number since its sixth-form college (teaching students in the final two years of high school) opened in 2012.
"We were delighted when last year we sent 20 students to Oxbridge, having seen the number increase gradually from just one offer in 2014," executive principal Dayo Olukoshi said in a press release. "For this to have more than doubled again is phenomenal."
The school is in the London borough of Newham, one of the most deprived in the British capital.
Almost all of the students in question are from ethnic minority backgrounds, according to the press release. Half of them receive free school meals as part of a government program designed to assist disadvantaged families, and two-thirds will become the first in their family to study at university.
State schools in the UK are funded by taxpayer money, and would be called public schools in the United States.
Just 7% of British schoolchildren are educated at independent (a.k.a. private) schools. Yet they still score about 40% of the places on Oxford and Cambridge undergrad programs. These children are generally from wealthy families -- private school fees run to tens of thousands of pounds per year -- and are primed for an Oxbridge education.
However Brampton Manor is making significant progress in opening Oxford and Cambridge up to students from different backgrounds.
"We are passionate about instilling within our students the self-belief that they are good enough, that their talent and potential is far more important than any preconceived notion of the 'type' of student Oxbridge might be looking for," said Sam Dobin, Director of Sixth Form.
"These young people have often overcome so much to get to this point and now have such exciting futures ahead of them; we couldn't be prouder of them."
One student, Dorcas Shodeinde, was put into state care at the age of 14. She recently received an offer from St Catherine's College, Oxford, to study law.
"When I was put in care all I knew was that statistically care leavers don't do very well. I was determined that my future would be different," she said, according to the press release.
Oxford University has so far not responded to CNN's request for comment.
"This incredible achievement really helps challenge some of the myths about who Oxford and Cambridge is for, showing that we are open to everyone with the talent, passion and drive to study here," said Sam Lucy, Director of Admissions for the Colleges at the University of Cambridge.
However as impressive as the students at Brampton Manor may be, state school pupils' access to Oxbridge remains a concern.
Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust, a foundation which works to improve social mobility in the UK, said that access has improved in the past two decades as Oxford and Cambridge have attempted to diversify their student populations.
"However, disadvantaged state school students are still seriously underrepresented," said Lampl in an email statement.
"Part of the problem is the admissions process at Oxford and Cambridge is complex and difficult for state school students to navigate."
Sutton Trust research shows that most state schools don't send any pupils to Oxbridge, and in many cases students are not encouraged to apply by teachers.
"The admissions process needs to change," said Lampl. "There is a strong case to be made for giving students from disadvantaged backgrounds a break on the offer they receive."
And it is not just elite UK universities that come in for criticism over admissions policies.
US Ivy League colleges are regularly questioned over which students they admit and why, and an October 2018 trial over alleged discrimination against Asian-Americans in Harvard admissions showed that there are ways to win a place in a competitive field.
Family wealth and connections to the school; athletic superiority; and an African-American or Latino background all significantly enhance an applicant's chances. In some instances, students whose families pledged millions of dollars to fund a building or endow professorships got an advantage, emails show.