Oxbridge access drama reaches TV soaps


Rows over university access have hit national television after EastEnders featured an Oxford admissions storyline.

Oxford University officials have already been in contact with the producers of the BBC One soap regarding the direction of the plot, in which teenagers Libby Fox and Tamwar Masood consider applying to Oxbridge.

The move followed revelations earlier this summer that Cambridge University had approached several television programs in a bid to try and challenge ancient perceptions about the institution.

Officials suggested storylines to the writers of EastEnders as well as its rivals Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

The makers of Top Gear were also asked if Jeremy Clarkson & Co. would be willing to recreate an infamous 1958 stunt in which engineering students winched an Austin Seven to the top of Cambridge’s Senate House.
A spokesman for Cambridge University explained that measures comprised an attempt to tackle myths about elitism at the university before its 800th anniversary in 2009.

However, a spokesperson for Oxford University added that the university did not and would not be following Cambridge’s active attempts to control the institution’s presence in popular culture.

“We do not have a policy of contacting scriptwriters to place stories about the university in television programs,” she said.

“We would, however, work closely with production teams if the university was part of any storyline.”

The spokesperson also addressed fears that the new adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel Brideshead Revisited would reignite age-old perceptions among prospective Oxford students of outdated customs and snobbery at the university.

She admitted that, “sometimes the beauty of Oxford can work against us.”
“We want to work against the ‘Brideshead’ image – people think it is all about impressive old buildings but there are actually very modern things going on here. Beauty and tradition can be enjoyed whatever your background.”
However, asked to comment on Cambridge’s approaches to television programmes, OUSU’s VP for academic and access affairs, Paul Dwyer, was sceptical as to whether more modern portrayals in the media would make much of a difference.

The VP for Access and Academic Affairs elaborated: “While a Doctor Who storyline based in Oxford might make compelling viewing, it is more likely to be schemes such as the Sutton Trust Summer schools and the Young Ambassadors programme that reach out and help widen participation.”


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