'You always get bright students who are not offered a place'

December 10, 2004

When David Clary takes over as president of Magdalen College, Oxford, he plans to focus on access and finance

Oxford University colleges risk Laura Spence-style admissions rows every year, David Clary, president-elect of Magdalen College, warned this week.

This is despite the fact that the university was doing more than ever to ensure that admissions policies were equitable, open and transparent, he said.

Professor Clary, professorial fellow of St John's College, Oxford, takes up his new post in September 2005, after the retirement of Anthony Smith, who was president of Magdalen when the college turned down Ms Spence four years ago.

Oxford was in the news again last weekend, accused of discriminating against applicants from public schools. The Sunday Telegraph story was based on internal research that showed that state-school pupils were more likely to be offered a place than those from private schools.

Professor Clary told The Times Higher that this illustrated that the university was likely to be criticised whatever it did. "I am amazed at the amount of work that goes on at Oxford to improve access that is not generally recognised," he said.

"I know that the colleges and the departments want as many bright people to apply as possible, and that they are doing a great deal of work to encourage applications from pupils at schools and colleges that do not usually send pupils to Oxford."

"The problem is that in certain subjects like medical science there are many more applications per place, and so you always get very bright students who unfortunately are not offered a place. What happened with Laura Spence is something that could happen almost every year."

Professor Clary said he hoped to use his experience to lead a united fundraising drive at Oxford.

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