About 1,000 students a year turn down a postgraduate place won at Oxford on academic merit because of the financial demands of study there, university figures suggest. This amounts to 15% of the 7,500 students offered a place, according to the admissions office. This is from the Guardian…
The figure has emerged after the outcry last week over the case of Damien Shannon, 26, who is suing St Hugh’s College for “selecting by wealth”.
Oxford demands that students who meet its academic targets for study must also prove that they have liquid assets to cover fees, which can reach £41,000, plus £12,900 in living costs. Students cannot factor in future earnings from evening or weekend work under a policy formalised across the university in 2010. There is also only one university means-tested scholarship to allow poorer students the chance of a postgraduate education.
St Hugh’s denies that it discriminates against those from lower-income backgrounds or that it has contravened Shannon’s “human right” to an education by demanding that he show he had access to £21,000 for fees and living costs for his economic and social history course.
St Hugh’s claims in its defence that the so-called financial guarantee is enforced to ensure students will be able to complete their courses without suffering financial difficulty and anxiety.
But the case, revealed in the Observer, has caused an outcry within the academic world and beyond. Dr Alex Flynn, a former St Hugh’s student and now a lecturer in international development at the University of East Anglia, has shared a letter he has written to the college’s principal to tell her of his “dismay”.
He wrote: “I was brought up in Manchester like Mr Shannon and had I been required to provide assurances that I had access to a total of over £20,000 for fees and living costs, I would not have been able to satisfy them. Consequently, I would not have been afforded the opportunity to study at Oxford.
“My career in academia at present has been underpinned by the education I received at St Hugh’s and it is lamentable that St Hugh’s is even being accused of following a policy that amounts to clear financial discrimination.”