Oxbridge sticks and stones

August 1, 2013

One usually associates the University of Oxford with rigorous yet polite debate, but “Applied mythology” (11 July), Edward Hicks’ response to my letter on Oxbridge admissions, suggests otherwise.

I presume that he stoops to invective to mask the fact that his counterargument is weak, not to mention laden with clichés and classic straw-man sidetracking. He accuses me of peddling dated “myths” and demands sources, but he provides no data to support his arguments. What would his master’s supervisor make of that?

Contrary to Hicks’ claims, I cannot understand how a streamlined, one-step Oxbridge application process can be seen as anything but encouraging for potential candidates from all backgrounds. He fails to mention that departmental applications have been employed for graduates like himself for many years. If the college choice has little bearing on outcomes for undergraduates, why not go the whole hog and get rid of college-led applications altogether?

I also find it bizarre that Hicks objects to a measure that would cut administration costs and make applications far less confusing for those unfamiliar with the colleges’ many quirks and traditions. Why not hand the entire process over to the academic departments, overseen by a board of undergraduate studies, if “open” applications are already so effective?

I am not peddling “myths”: just look at the most recent admissions data on Oxford’s and Cambridge’s own websites and from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. Many colleges are still attracting barely 50 per cent applications from state-funded schools and successful outcomes are significantly lower. Myth? Since when did hobgoblins compile Hesa spreadsheets?

Those who live in ivory towers should not throw sticks and stones. After all, ivory is not only opaque to daylight, it is also brittle and “antiquated”. I find it bewildering that any suggestion of modernising Oxbridge attracts such mindless brickbats from those within and without those hallowed walls. One begins to wonder if a blue-skies institutional mindset addles the mind rather than making it open to rational ideas.

Anthony Rodriguez
Staines, Middlesex

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