ASA student admissions officer at Oxford University I spend a great deal of time attempting to dispel the myth that the university is populated exclusively by rich, pretentious, public school-educated, upper-class snobs, in order to convince bright, state-educated A-level students that they should apply. This myth is perpetuated by the widespread media coverage received by "black tie" events, such as major college balls.
Why do the media keep on insisting doggedly that such a dress code is common and normal, when it applies only to occasional events such as major college balls (black tie balls happen in all universities) and Union Society debates? The union's rather quaint if faintly laughable insistence on having its officers dressed likeP. G. Wodehouse characters is limited to the debate itself and viewed by most students as the personal vanity of some mildly eccentric "hacks" who are anything but representative of the student body. However, the portrayal of this as typical (for example in LWT's recent Bob Monkhouse Special, broadcast from the Oxford Union) provides a spectacle of the Brideshead Revisited image that discourages applications from those worried about Oxford's perceived social elitism. In fact Oxford has a better state/independent school ratio than many of the other top universities in the UK.
Oxford is academically elite, but has been becoming socially less so for 70 years. We students would be grateful if our "Sebastian" image is finally laid to rest with the myth of Inspector Morse.
Second-year politics, philosophy and economics undergraduate, St Anne's College, Oxford University, ex-Whitchurch High School (comprehensive), Cardiff