Director of University Applications
E-mail: Mr G J N NeillBA, MA, PGCE
Mr Gordon Neill is the Head of English and Director of University Applications. He joined Cranleigh in 2003, having previously been a housemaster at Truro School, in Cornwall. Academically, he has a particular interest in the satirical literature of the eighteenth century, on which subject he completed an MA, earning a Distinction.
He has coached rugby at a decent level and cricket at a social one throughout his time at Cranleigh; he has also served for many years as captain of the Common Room cricket team, the Platypods. Away from Cranleigh, his interests include American football (both NFL and college), Irish rugby, country walks, real ale, train travel, Golden Age crime fiction and the novels of P.G.Wodehouse.
Each year the vast majority of Cranleighans choose to go to university, upon completing their A Level courses. They are assisted throughout this process by a specialist team, led by Mr Gordon Neill, the Director of University Applications. In the Lower Sixth, each student meets with a member of the team during the Lent and Summer Terms, to discuss their own ambitions and learn more about how to research their options and make a successful application. In June of the Lower Sixth, we run a UCAS day, during which members of the UCAS team deliver presentations, Old Cranleighans come back to talk to students about their own university experiences and Lower Sixth students are given a step-by-step guide to the registration process. We also offer a variety of university visits during this period, to institutions within a three hour drive of Cranleigh.
Around 80% of Cranleighans have chosen to go to Russell Group universities in recent years, of which Durham, Exeter, Edinburgh and Bristol have been the most popular. Of the University Alliance universities, which are less traditionally academic in their focus, Oxford Brookes has, by some distance, attracted the most Cranleigh students. Full details of admissions statistics can be found in the UCAS guide which can be downloaded below.
The last few years has also seen a marked rise in applications to North American universities. Applicants to North America are guided and supported through the process by Mr Neill who has years of experience with such applications. Successful applicants have gained admission to a wide range of North American universities. The Ivy League schools are, of course, very popular with the most academically ambitious Cranleighans and we have had an excellent success rate there, with our students recently having been awarded places at Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth and Harvard, as well as McGill, in Canada. We also recognise, however, the importance of identifying the right fit for all our North American applicants and we encourage them to explore a wide variety of options. This has led to students taking up places at UBC, California-Santa Barbara, Colgate, George Washington, Haverford, Miami, Michigan, San Francisco and USC.
Support is available to students throughout the process. UCAS clinics are run during Priority Times and are available to students three times a week, during the Summer Term of the Lower Sixth and the Michaelmas Term of the Upper Sixth. Oxbridge and Medicine applicants are offered their own programmes of support by Mr Adam Rothwell (Master of the Scholars) and Mr Freddie Laughton (Head of Biology) respectively.
A place at Oxford or Cambridge is the objective of some of our brightest pupils. A number arrive at Cranleigh already with Oxbridge ambitions, others emerge as possible candidates during their time here. Those applying are encouraged to undertake their own personal research and reading in order to deepen their understanding and appreciation of their subject.
Applicants are allocated a mentor from the relevant department who guides them through the application process and provides a structured programme of individual meetings and small-group discussions, to consider additional reading and discuss relevant academic issues. These give the candidates the opportunity to articulate their ideas, to challenge points of view and beliefs, to defend and justify their opinions and to widen their knowledge and understanding of their chosen subject. This “stretching” process is aimed at preparing the pupils for the demands of the Oxbridge interview.