Fifty-year admission

January 7, 2016

The more the mechanism of the myth-laden selection process at the University of Oxford is revealed (“Alan Rusbridger: lifting the lid on Oxford admissions”, 21 December), the more one is inclined to agree with Alan Ryan that it splits hairs, to the extent that half those rejected are not objectively distinguishable from those who succeed (“A select few: student recruitment in the US”, Opinion, 7 May 2015). Presumably no data exist on the fate of those who fail, although I read somewhere that a few are so disappointed that they decline to consider other universities and settle for the A-level job market instead.

As a University of Cambridge reject in 1964, I felt the pain acutely, all the more so because the then mandatory seventh term in the sixth form had raised such great expectations; but by the same token, the spur to succeed at the redbrick university that immediately accepted me was all the greater. Nevertheless, a slight sense of being an outsider clung to me ever after…until last year when out of the blue and almost 50 years after the Cambridge fiasco, I was invited to examine an Oxford DPhil. Finally I had been admitted and all was forgiven.

David Bignell

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