Right combination

August 29, 2013

As much as I can see why many people would think that overturning the Oxbridge rule of combination would make the applications process “fairer” (“Competition questions over rule that restricts applications to Oxbridge”, 15 August), I have to conclude that such a decision would be misguided.

Not only do I feel extremely uncomfortable with reducing the pursuit of education to a sterile object guided by “competition law”, I also think that not enough people appreciate the sheer number of hours that go into making a stellar application to Cambridge or to Oxford. As the University of Oxford spokesman quoted in the article explains, sacking off the rule and “widening the pool”, so to speak, would almost certainly jeopardise the holistic nature of the unique Oxbridge applications process.

Contrary to what some tabloid newspapers claim, the current system allows for students from a variety of backgrounds to be considered fairly on their individual merit. Unlike with the vast majority of universities, a candidate’s grades and personal statement are not the only ways to impress the admissions tutors. The interviews are an essential part of the process, and they alone require months of preparation. Although Oxford and Cambridge are similar, they are not the same, and so one must prepare accordingly. As an alumnus of the University of Cambridge and a person who now works in education, I can vouch for the amount of time and effort that goes into making an application of the highest quality to one of these historic institutions (not to mention the other universities a student will be applying to). Trying to prepare in the same way for both universities in the same year, along with balancing one’s A levels and extra-curricular commitments, would be an almost impossible feat.

To disrupt the very carefully designed balance of this system would do prospective Oxbridge students more harm than good in the long run.

Siana Bangura
OxbridgeSciences and OxbridgeHumanities

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