Reverse Oxford University’s decision to take places away from state school ‘near misses’.

This petition made change with 10,150 supporters!

My name is Caitlin, and I was an offer holder for Geography at Keble College, Oxford for the upcoming academic year (2020-2021). I go to a state comprehensive school, ranked within the bottom 25% in the country for A-level results, and was the first girl in my school’s history to receive an offer from Oxford University. Not only this, but I am a first generation student (nobody I’m my family has gone to university), come from a working class background and was selected for highly competitive Oxbridge outreach programmes. For context, I achieved 6 grade 9’s, 2 grade 8’s an A* and an A at GCSE.

After completing the gruelling Oxford application process, sitting the admissions exam and going to Oxford for interview, when I received an offer at the university, I knew the last hurdle to overcome was to achieve the A*AA offer in my A-levels. Then Covid19 struck and changed all of that; a computer algorithm would now decide my future.

In all three of my a level subjects I was downgraded from A*A*A* to AAA despite being ranked 2nd in all 3 of my subjects. However, this wasn’t good enough for Oxford and I lost my place. This was even despite reading various articles in mainstream media stating that ‘Oxford University [would] accept scores of brilliant pupils from struggling backgrounds even if they fail to get expected grades’. So, why was my background not considered to be a struggling background, given I’m a first generation student and go to a school that doesn’t historically send students to Oxbridge?

Now my place for 2020 is gone, my best chance of getting my place back is through the appeals process with mock grades, however those were the grades I was given on results day (AAA). Alternatively, I can take a year out and resit my exams, which is incredibly expensive (at least £100 per subject, ~£300 for all my a-levels) and my school is not paying for. During this time I’d wait and see if I’m ‘oxford worthy’.

I was told that almost all geography applicants met their offer, so my place was automatically offered to open offer applicants. However, given geography at Oxford has a notoriously large private school cohort, the likelihood of these students meeting their offers was much higher; in smaller classes, students were given their predicted grades rather than their grades determined by a computer algorithm. As private school classes are generally smaller, this was more likely to occur.

I'm disappointed at Oxford University, who claim they are committed to taking on students regards of their background, where I have lost my place based on exams I’ve never had the opportunity to sit. The thought of going through the whole application process again now doesn’t feel like something I’d want to do. Personally, this experience has made me feel like Oxford is not the kind of place for me, particularly if this is their attitude towards students from state comprehensive backgrounds.

Simply put, I won’t be able to get my place back for 2020 (they claim this is due to social distancing), however, I encourage you to sign this petition if you believe, ‘near misses’ like myself are being robbed of the opportunity to study at one of the best universities in the world, solely due to a poor planned out, classist grading system, and Oxford University should reconsider their inflexibility given we are living through unprecedented times in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.

Thank you.

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