There have been calls for Oxford University to scrap the £75 application fee currently charged to students applying for postgraduate courses.
In a resolution now set to be debated on 10th March at the Sheldonian Theatre, PhD student Benjamin Fernando and researcher Mike Cassidy have outlined their plans to scrap the fee.
The University has so far stood firm in opposing the move and maintaining the benefits provided from bringing in over £2 million per year from the fee.
Benjamin Fernando told Cherwell: “The University requiring candidates to pay this fee is clearly elitist and exclusionary, and serves to work against the University’s commitment to advancing access at a graduate level.”
The researcher Mike Cassidy, who worked alongside Fernando in bring- ing this motion to the University congregation, said: “The other motivation for our resolution is that we fear Oxford will raise the fees…and that soon charging for postgraduate applications in other universities will be the norm, looking to Oxbridge for justification. If Oxford votes to abolish these fees, it sets a great example to those other [application fee-charging] universities.”
These views are also shared by Chris Lintott, a Professor of Astrophysics, who said: “I would hear every year from people who couldn’t find the £75. I certainly couldn’t have found that sort of money when I was applying! It also adds to the perception that Oxford is a place for the rich.”
Mr Lintott also warned that “Unless they [the reforms to the application fee] are as liberal as possible (Harvard offers a fee waiver more or less to anyone who asks) there will still be people who are prevented from applying because of the fee”.
The Oxford Student Union has also supported the move, with Ray Williams, current Vice-President for Access and Academic Affairs, saying: “Our position is that the University should do away with the application fee or, at minimum, vastly expand the fee waiver program.”
This was following a vote in support of the resolution during 3rd Week at the Student Council, in which 90% of those in attendance backed it.
A spokesperson for the University said: “Oxford is one of a growing number of institutions that charges a fee at the point of application for graduate study, towards the cost of the systems, staff and other resources that support its admissions process for over 30,000 prospective applicants every year”.
They added: “The University has agreed a Strategic Plan priority to increase the number of graduate scholarships it will offer over the next five years, and is committed to meeting this target.”
The spokesperson also made reference to the expansion of its UNIQ+ postgraduate application programme, which is “a paid research internship programme for students from under-represented backgrounds who might not otherwise consider postgraduate study at Oxford,” and includes an application fee waiver as part of the programme.
Essi Kessler, the HCR (Hulme Common Room) President at Brase- nose College, added that “the money collected from the Application fee for postgraduates is invested in access schemes such as the UNIQ summer school.”
Kessler also made reference to how it would be “highly desirable to reduce the amount of the application fee to bring it down to a more moderate amount”.