Antiquated approaches (1 of 2)

May 5, 2011

In reply to Jackie Cassell (Letters, 21 April), the "real" Oxbridge scandal is its labyrinthine college application system. This presents a formidable barrier to those without the social skills to penetrate its castellated walls. The poor and state-educated might as well pin the tail on the donkey when choosing which college to place first on their Universities and Colleges Admissions Service forms.

Even worse is the sex discrimination scandal at the University of Cambridge's three surviving female-only colleges: Newnham, Lucy Cavendish and Murray Edwards. By automatically excluding half their potential intake on the grounds of gender, these colleges are setting back fair admissions by half a century.

Such ivy-clad backwaters are stuck in a time warp along with Angela Brazil books, ginger ale and the Famous Five. They also underline the fact that the Oxbridge college system is still rooted in the ethos of independent schools, where the cloistered world of single-sex education is largely the preserve of those with deep pockets.

The "Cambridge Three" need to be dragged into the 21st century: they must open their gates to male students as soon as possible. Outreach activities and fiddling with bursaries will remain a waste of time until Oxbridge's undergraduate admissions process and the college system are radically reformed.

Anthony Rodriguez, Staines

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