Huge dispariites between colleges for rewards for firsts in Mods and Prelims have been revealed.
St. John’s, Oxford’s wealthiest college, pays out £300 per annum to its scholars, whereas St Peter’s provides them with a mere £100 one-off payment.
Yet College wealth seems to bear little correlation to the generosity of prelim pay-outs. Harris Manchester and Pembroke – two of Oxford’s poorest colleges – give £150 and £300 each year respectively, whereas the far richer Magdalen hands out a comparable £200 annually. Regent’s Park, also one of Oxford’s less well-endowed, awards £250 per annum.
One english student from St Anne’s College said, “It just doens’t seem fair, i worked really hard and I get hardly anything compared to my friends at Christ Church.”
But more contentious, however, is the practice to let students with a First at Mods or Prelims go straight to the top of the second year room ballot. Merton, Christ Church and St Hilda’s all use this system.
Kirsty Smith, a maths student from Magdalen said on this, “while it’s not fair, that’s how Oxford works.” She added, “I don’t like that system. your room is such a massive part of your life, it’s your only living space”
Another student, Victoria Schindler, a fourth year classicist from St Hilda’s said, “No, I don’t think that’s fair. They should do that randomly. I don’t think that academic achievement should be rewarded in that way. It’s ridiculous – lots more people put in a lot more work for a 2:1. The system is liable to cause resentment. It was definitely one of the reasons why I didn’t live in college in 3rd year”.
On being asked if rewards for Mods could influence people applying, a fourth year from Corpus said, “I don’t think people apply thinking they’re going to get a First in Mods.
“As for room ballots, it just leads to bad feeling. If its done on luck, people just say ‘oh well, tough times’ but if it’s done on academic achievement ,it leads to bad feeling between different groups of people.”
One student at St Anne’s College, where this is not the case with room ballots, commented that this custom breeds insecurity and paranoia. They said it means that one’s room becomes a “physical symbol” of what their college thinks of them. Thus if one ‘under-achieves’ a room serves to remind students what they might then see as a ‘failure’ on their part.
Other perks for scholars, for example at St. Anne’s and St. Peter’s College, include a yearly Scholar’s Dinner to celebrate their students’ achievements. Magdalen Scholars are even invited to eat venison culled from their own deer herd. Harris Manchester and Regent’s Park both lack such a tradition, as their smaller size means that only a handful would be eligible to attend. St Hugh’s includes free vacation residence and LMH asks their students to sign their names in a special Distinction holders book.