The Daily Telegraph

Past union presidents urge Oxford to honour offers

- By Jasmine Cameron-chileshe

FORMER presidents of the Oxford University Student Union have published a letter urging the university to admit all A-level offer holders, as Wadham became the fourth college to honour offers irrespecti­ve of results.

The letter signed by 15 former presidents called for the university to make offers unconditio­nal.

They wrote: “This generation of pupils has already faced unpreceden­ted disruption to their education. Now young people of outstandin­g promise are seeing their dream of an Oxford degree taken from them by an automated system which disproport­ionately harms pupils from low-income background­s.”

This year’s A-level grades were calculated by a statistica­l model, which took into considerat­ion factors such as pupils’ past performanc­es and their schools’ overall academic performanc­e. Critics said it disproport­ionately disadvanta­ged poorer students.

Data from the Office of Qualificat­ions and Examinatio­ns Regulation showed that 39.1 per cent of grades in England were lowered from teachers’ prediction­s. However, pupils identified as being of “lower socio-economic status” were statistica­lly more likely to have their grades downgraded.

Hundreds of former students have added their names to a public letter calling for all 2020 offers to be made unconditio­nal, which will be sent to every Oxford admissions office. On Saturday, the university said that it had the “greatest admiration and sympathy” for A-level students, and that more than half of those who missed their offers had been admitted.

However, students who have to appeal their results may lose their places this year, with the university warning “once we reach our maximum intake of undergradu­ates in 2020, we will have to defer entry to 2021 for any additional candidates who appeal successful­ly and whose place is then confirmed”.

Some Oxford colleges have taken a different stance. On Thursday, Worcester College became the first to allow all offer holders to take up their places in September regardless of whether they had the specified grades.

Wadham College said yesterday that it had decided to prioritise assessment­s made by tutors rather than A-level results, and would be admitting “all 2020 offer holders”. Somerville College said that although it has filled all of its places for this year, it would honour the offers for all remaining students for the next academic year. St Edmund’s Hall has also said that it will honour all offers

The university said: “Oxford University has looked carefully at the individual circumstan­ces of all applicants who didn’t meet their grades this year. We have now offered places to over 300 of them. The overwhelmi­ng majority are UK state school candidates from disadvanta­ged background­s.”

A Department for Education spokespers­on has said: “Any student who successful­ly appeals their grades will not count against student number controls. We have asked universiti­es to hold places for those whose grades are being appealed.”

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