Opinion writer Matt Harding looks the rejection of a student from Oxford Uni based on his lack of financial security.
A college of the University of Oxford has been taken to court over accusations made regarding the handling of one particular applicant. The College in question, St. Hugh’s, is alleged to have discriminated against poorer students after withdrawing the student Damien Shannon’s offer because the student could offer no proof that he could cover the required £12,900 living costs.
The case, in which Judge Armitage QC has reserved judgement until a future unspecified date, was brought about by the Student, Damien Shannon. His claim that by imposing such a figure which is “not obtainable” for most people has led to the accusation of the college being in breach of the Human Rights act. The college requires students to prove they can cover costs of £12,900 to cover living expenses such as accommodation. This set figure has been created by the university as a means of ensuring the students have the ability to cover all costs, and was established from an annual survey of college bursars. A spokesperson for the college said regarding the set figure that “we consider this preferable not only for the institute but for the welfare of the individual student, as it prevents dropouts and disruptions partway through a course.”
Damien Shannon stated that “the effect of the financial conditions of entry is to select students on the basis of wealth and exclude those not in possession of it.” This point follows Mr Shannon’s move for the motion of removing the financial requirement of the college all together. The student had calculated that, following taking out a loan to cover tuition fees, he could live off the £9000 he had already acquired, and that the additional £3000 was only a figure the university required and not one that met with everyday circumstances. The spokes person of St. Hugh’s college said that “The requirement that postgraduate students provide a guarantee in over to take up their course at the University of Oxford is made clear to applicants,” with the lawyers representing the college requesting that the student’s suggestion to remove financial requirements, be thrown out.
The issues raised throw open wider questions about how elitist Oxford and Cambridge still are. For many years, these two have been boasting of a great change in their nature of operation, where anyone who is good enough will be granted entry. This move reflects the considerable efforts of these two universities to attract a wider range of students, including their participation in state school UCAS fares. However, with figures suggesting that up to 40% of Oxbridge students were privately educated, they seem to still carry the ‘stigma’ of particularly ‘posh’ institutes for people who come from money. This assumption about Oxford has become such a widely circulated idea that it has become engrained in peoples understanding of the University itself, and by this thought, it isn’t surprising that a student feels he is being persecuted for being unable to meet financial requirements. Despite this, the fact the university still openly defends its case of ensuring it concerns itself with what their student’s bank balance will be for the duration of their study, only further promotes how out of touch the institute is with current student feeling.