Widen the net, Oxbridge (1 of 2)

January 10, 2013

Miles Hewstone is right to agonise about whether Oxbridge selection mechanisms are error-free ("Selection mechanism", 3 January), but what about the students who never apply in the first place? If the goal is to admit the best students whatever school they come from, the most pressing problem for Oxbridge is getting students from average and below-average schools to apply. And here, there are some easy wins to be had by making the application process more straightforward and accessible.

As long as the universities of Oxford and Cambridge operate admissions procedures at the college, rather than the university, level, they perpetuate an extra level of complexity that advantages schools that understand the system and know how to play it while baffling students and teachers from schools where an Oxbridge application is a rarity.

If these world-class universities want to attract the brightest and best, they are remarkably slow at understanding and dealing with the obstacles that their complex admissions processes put in the way of ordinary schools.

Sir John Holman, Department of chemistry, University of York.

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