Oxford bins postgrad financial guarantee policy

University rethinks stance after claim that the demand discriminated against poor students

September 12, 2013

The University of Oxford has changed its postgraduate admissions policy so that students no longer have to prove that they can cover a recommended level of fees and living costs for the duration of their courses.

The change comes in the wake of the settlement earlier this year of legal proceedings brought against St Hugh’s College, Oxford by Damien Shannon, an MSc applicant.

Mr Shannon claimed that the financial guarantee policy discriminated against poorer students and argued that he had enough money to cover the course fees, but not the living costs demanded by the college authorities. He said he could live on less than the £12,900 that the guarantee required.

Mr Shannon has since been offered a place at St Hugh’s.

Under the new system, students must provide evidence that they have sufficient funding to cover fees for the first year of their courses, but need only give an “assurance” that they are able and willing to meet fees and living costs for the duration of their study.

The university is drafting its estimate of likely living costs for 2014-15, which it plans to publish next month.

Mr Shannon’s case had been championed by Hazel Blears, Labour MP for Salford and Eccles, where he is a constituent. She said the changes would benefit not only him but also “thousands of students” who would otherwise have struggled to prove they had access to the funding Oxford used to demand.

The policy had not only discriminated against students on the basis of background and wealth, but even when they “were willing to show initiative and get a part-time job to help ensure they had the money, Oxford refused to take account of these earnings”, she added.

A spokesman for the university said the new financial declaration aimed to ensure that students were fully aware of the expected fees and living costs associated with graduate study at Oxford, and would “still help to prevent students dropping out during their courses, which is in the interest of both the welfare of individual students and of the institution”.

elizabeth.gibney@tsleducation.com

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