Oxford considers university-wide admissions as applications

December 16, 2005

Oxford University has unveiled plans for a university-wide admissions system to ensure the applications process is fair and efficient amid rising student demand.

Proposals would see all undergraduates compared across all subjects - replacing current practice in which applicants to colleges are compared in some subjects but not others.

A discussion paper by an internal university working party, published this week, presents two possible options. Under the first, applicants would not state a college preference when applying and college tutors would have the final say on those interviewed and offered a place. Under the second option, they would continue to state their college preference and colleges would retain responsibility for shortlisting and offers.

Despite changes to Oxford admissions in 2002-03, the system remains complex and potentially confusing, the report argues.

A working party chaired by Sir Tim Lankester, president of Corpus Christi College, has developed two models, both requiring all candidates for a subject to be considered alongside each other at shortlisting and final offer stages. Currently, candidates for some subjects are compared by colleges only on an informal basis.

Oxford's admissions system is under pressure as the number of applicants continues to rise. For 2005 entry, it received 12,496 applications for 3,214 places.

Sir Tim said the working party, set up to review admissions last year, concluded that the system works "extremely well". But the report says some improvements have exposed weaknesses elsewhere. There are concerns about issues such as whether choosing the "right college" can influence a candidate's chance of success.

Sir Tim said: "The aim is to provide further assurance that - with more and more good candidates relative to the available places - we have a process that is both efficient and effective."

University-wide feedback will inform recommendations put to its educational standards and policy committee and the conference of colleges.


Pupils from state schools found it harder to gain a place at Oxford University this year, while those from independent schools were more successful. Figures for applications made in October 2004 for entry in 2005, released this week, show that the success rate of maintained school applicants dropped to 24.9 per cent compared with per cent the previous year, while 32.1 per cent of independent school applicants were successful compared with 31.5 per cent in 2004. Applicants from further and higher education colleges and sixth-form colleges also fared better this year, each improving their success rate by one percentage point.

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