Interview was fair 1

January 16, 2004

We utterly reject Dawn Chatty's version of her daughter's account of her interview for a place to read medical sciences at Downing College, Cambridge ("Oxford tutor attacks Cambridge interview", THES , January 8).

The two interviewers she accuses of applying "bullying and intimidating techniques" - apart from being humane, courteous and considerate individuals -had undergone interview training: one a year previously, the other a couple of weeks before the interview.

Anonymous feedback from candidates about this year's interviews in medicine included the phrases "quite hard but fair" and "very relaxed and fair".

There was no negative feedback.

Whatever the applicant's perceptions of success or failure, it is inconceivable that either interviewer would have informed her that her answers were "wrong".

If one of the interviewers cut short a colleague's question to bring the interview to a close (though neither recalls doing so), that would have been to avoid disadvantaging the following candidate through a shortened interview.

The conclusions reached by our two colleagues concerning the candidate's suitability for medical science at Cambridge were fully confirmed by a second interview (not referred to by Chatty).

It is inexcusable that a distorted account of an unsuccessful interview has been constructed as a wholesale condemnation of Cambridge admissions interviews. The article brings appreciably closer the day on which all admissions interviews will routinely have to be recorded to protect interviewers against irresponsible accusations by disappointed candidates and their parents.

Barry Everitt, master
Graham Virgo, senior tutor
Paul Millett, admissions tutor

Downing College, Cambridge

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