Oxford is now the only British university that asks applicants to complete a separate application form, after Cambridge last week announced it was scrapping their equivalent.Cambridge University said that it would no longer require students to submit its ‘Cambridge Application Form’ (CAF) and the associated £10 fee, both for administrative reasons and to improve accessibility.From now on, UK and European students applying to Cambridge will only have to complete their UCAS form. Once the form is submitted, students will be asked to complete a supplementary online questionnaire “in common with applicants to many other universities”, which replaces the written questionnaire that is currently sent to applicants.Geoff Parks, Director of Undergraduate Admissions for the Cambridge Colleges, said scrapping the form made business sense. “We’ve been planning to do this since 2003, purely on business process grounds. The main reason for having a separate form was because of the time it used to take UCAS to get applicant data to us. With advances in IT that is no longer an issue,” he said.He also acknowledged arguments that the form gave the wrong impression to applicants: “The fact that the separate application form was cited by some commentators as a barrier to access was an added incentive, and the chaos caused by the postal strike last October was also influential in the final decision to make the change now.” Oxford has said that it is currently considering whether to keep its extra form and fee for students applying for 2009 entry. In 2007, the University reduced the amount of information they asked for on the form, cutting it down to a two-page document.A spokesperson for the University said that Oxford is reviewing how it collects additional information from candidates and their referees.“The University has been aware of the concerns expressed by schools and colleges about the additional burden placed on candidates in requiring completion of separate application materials other than the standard UCAS application, and the perception that this [has] created about access to Oxford,” she said.She suggested that it may be possible to abolish the form and fee, but emphasised that no decisions have been made yet.  “Further refinements to the admissions process, and the development of the UCAS application for 2009 entry, may allow the University to dispense with the need for any separate application form,” she said.“A statement on the future of the separate form and its £10 administration fee will be made once the University has completed its assessment, and will be communicated to schools and colleges in time for the commencement of the 2009 entry admissions process.” James Lamming, OUSU VP (Access and Academic Affairs), believes that Oxford must drop its fees, which in his view deters applicants.He said, “The University must end its undergraduate admissions fee immediately because the charge discourages applications, and falsely implies that Oxford is more expensive than other higher education bodies. Oxford University should also look at collecting any additional information it needs via the UCAS form, rather than having additional forms which may be perceived as an additional barrier to entry.” But Lamming commended the University for providing bursaries to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.“A common but false myth exists that studying amongst the dreaming spires costs more than other universities, and OUSU is organising open days and school visiting schemes to explain about the financial support available at Oxford and hopefully end these financial and other incorrect myths,” he said.“The University has also invested vast sums of money, both in tackling these myths and providing financial support, and they should be commended for their efforts.”
by Mohsin Kahn