Colleges to keep grip on admissions

June 2, 2006

Oxford colleges are set to retain control of student admissions, defeating a proposal that would have seen applications to the university processed centrally instead, writes Claire Sanders.

The colleges and university agreed last week to allow students to continue to apply to their preferred colleges following discussions that will be ratified in June.

The two sides also agreed that colleges would retain the final say on who they admit.

But there will be a concession to those concerned at the impact of the "college lottery" - whereby bright students are disadvantaged by applying to a popular college.

Under the proposed system, university faculties will be encouraged to band students by subject, and college tutors will be expected to consider the bandings in their choice of applicants. Strong students who apply to popular colleges could find themselves invited for interview by a different college.

Sir Tim Lankester, president of Corpus Christi College and chair of the university working party on undergraduate admissions that reported last year, said: "What we are proposing is a common framework that will see even closer co-ordination between subject faculties and colleges to ensure that the very best students get in."

A number of subjects, notably in the sciences, band students.

Sir Tim said: "We cannot force action on colleges and faculties, but what we have agreed is a set of principles they will abide by."

He said that the new system would be fair and transparent and shore up the university's legal defences against challenges from rejected students.

Sir Tim also stressed that students could still make an "open application"

to the university rather than to a particular college. "We expect this option to become increasingly popular in the future," he said.

But "option A" in last year's report, under which students would have applied to the university rather than to a college, has been rejected.

The colleges and the university also agreed to shift the admissions office, currently called the Oxford Colleges Admissions Office, to within the university.

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