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Tue Jan 22, 2013, 10:30 AM

Oxford college sued over using 'selection by wealth' for admissions

Student takes St Hugh's to court after after being rejected for not having access to £21,000 for tuition fees and living costs

An Oxford college is being sued for discriminating against poorer students applying to study for postgraduate courses. St Hugh's, which was founded in 1886, is being taken to court for choosing applicants not just on academic merit, but also on their ability to prove they can pay tens of thousands of pounds for tuition fees and living expenses.

It is claimed that, along with other Oxford colleges, St Hugh's is "selecting by wealth" in asking students with a conditional place at the university to demonstrate that they hold funds to cover tuition fees, plus at least £12,900 a year for living costs. The university refuses to take into account projected earnings from students who plan to carry out paid work during their course and has only one means-tested scholarship available.
He successfully applied to the Co-operative Bank for a professional career development loan of £10,000 which would cover costs of "both the college and university fees, and a modest contribution to living expenses".


Commentary from an Oxford graduate student:

Furthermore, St Hugh’s denies that this requirements falls “disproportionately within” the lower socio-economic groups. Shannon was only able to demonstrate that he had £9,000 to live on, and planned to make up the difference through part time work. But St Hugh’s, following university policy, deemed this insufficient, and so Shannon was refused a place for this reason alone.

The fact is that the requirement of a £12,900 living allowance is a farce. My accommodation, courtesy of my college, costs £4,500 for the duration of my academic year, and includes all utilities. This means that students need to prove that their income after accommodation costs is £700 a month, or £23 a day. Students could dine at the Randolph Hotel on a regular basis and still not need that much.

Moreover, even the scholarships reflect this. My personal living allowance, generously granted by the university, is £9,490 a year. The Arts and Humanities Research Council grants some graduate students the same amount.

That’s only £490 more than the amount Shannon had, and it’s a significant £3,410 less than the university’s requirement. And yet I know from experience that it is ample to live on. I am not suffering from financial difficulty and anxiety. I’m still perfectly capable of engaging thoroughly in university life.


£12,900 for living expenses does seem a stupidly high 'minimum', to me. And insisting on it will indeed block graduate students without significant savings; if the college was genuinely concerned about the living standards of the students, it would arrange loans of a sufficient size to cover what they think the minimum you can live in Oxford on, if they think they shouldn't relie on getting part time work somewhere. Graduate students should not have to rely on parents or partners.

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Reply Oxford college sued over using 'selection by wealth' for admissions (Original post)
muriel_volestrangler Jan 2013 OP
LeftishBrit Jan 2013 #1

Response to muriel_volestrangler (Original post)

Tue Jan 22, 2013, 05:30 PM

1. From the Oxford student newspaper:


I think a lot of this is paranoia that the college or university might be put under pressure to make a financial contribution if the student runs out of money. I'm afraid that British universities tend to regard graduate students as a cash-cow; and equal opportunity of access has not been made the same issue for graduates as for undergraduates. I agree that such policies are discriminatory.

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