Oxford admissions boss shuns "thick and rich"

The head of admissions at the University of Oxford has claimed this week that the admissions system is deliberately designed to nullify the advantages that wealthier applicants can gain through tutoring. Nine out of ten candidates now have to take a subject-specific aptitude test, designed to be impossible to teach for.

Speaking at an international higher education conference run by the Sutton Trust charity, Mike Nicholson, director of undergraduate admissions, said, “I really don’t care whether candidates are poor and bright or rich and bright. I want the bright ones,” he said. “If they’re thick and rich, they’re the ones I’m hoping our process can exclude.”

A spokesperson for the University of Oxford said, “Speaking at an event organised to discuss approaches to outreach and academic selection, Mr Nicholson indicated that there was a great deal of mythology and misinformation over the students that are made offers — there is a public perception that we attract the ‘rich and thick’.

“His presentation focused on the very careful and nuanced range of activity taken by tutors to ensure that offers are made to students who show academic potential and aptitude for their chosen course, irrespective of their background, and that significant efforts had been made by the collegiate University over many years to adhere to this selection criteria.”

Oxford spends over £3 million per year on outreach and a further £8 million on bursaries supporting under-privileged applicants.

Tom Jackson, a first year PPEist, commented, “Other than reading, there was no way I could have been tutored for my interview.”

Louise Taylor, a History fresher, said, “Some people at interview had been on courses to prepare for the aptitude tests, but at the interview there’s nothing to hide behind.”