'Sneering don' puts pressure on tutors

September 4, 1998

Pressure is mounting to ensure that Cambridge University tutors get training in interview techniques after this week's controversy over the "sneering don", who reduced an interviewee to tears when he apparently mocked her working-class, Essex background.

Eric Griffiths - a tutor at Trinity College who was forced to apologise after a student complained about a string of insults during her application interview - has been condemned for harming the university's attempts to broaden access.

Anne Newbould, of the University's Intercollegiate Applications Unit, said the row and bad publicity had made "everyone very distressed. Clearly something went badly wrong. If there was a discourtesy, that is not reasonable."

Ms Newbould said that all Cambridge college admissions officers receive clear guidelines that urge training for tutors to ensure that they are "alert to the variety of students they will be interviewing".

In essence, colleges have autonomy over their admissions policies, but it is understood that the university's admissions forum will move to raise the pressure for interview training. Ms Newbould said: "We welcome feedback from those who feel that they have been treated unfairly, and we are always striving to improve the system."

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