Letter: Oxbridge's Entrance System Is as Fair as It Gets
Nichol, Sue, The Independent (London, England)
Sir: Johann Hari accuses Oxbridge dons of " underestimating the potential of state school students" and being totally unaware of flaws in the (application) process ("Oxbridge has many ways of discriminating." 20 August). I wonder if he has any idea of the lengths to which some Oxbridge colleges go in order to be fair and assess the true potential, regardless of background, of the applicants. The geography dons at Hertford college, Oxford, invite teachers from both state and independent schools to be involved in the interviewing process. All applicants are invited to stay at the college for the interview period. There is a lively and very amusing introductory talk after dinner on the first evening, which reminds the students just how good they are to have got this far.
The dons make every attempt to make the interviews (all students have at least two) relaxed and friendly, whilst probing for signs of interest, enquiry, knowledge and skill within the realm of their experience. The students' submitted work, exam results, personal statement and head teacher's report are all carefully assessed as well.
I have participated in this process and consider it to be about as fair as it gets. Johann Hari's assumption that "privileged children over perform at interview" is a nonsense. …