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Insiders sell Oxford secrets

For pound;40 you can join the varsity elite - maybe. Clare Dean reports.

THE Brideshead world of Oxford with its Brandy Alexanders and punting toffs was exposed as unrealistic this week as students sold secrets of university life.

Offers to provide briefings on courses, colleges and even tutors landed on the desks of the top-

performing 1,000 state and private schools this week.

The evidence - available for pound;40 a report - is based on information collected from hundreds of undergraduates with graduates contributing reports on courses.

It includes details of individual tutors, their interviewing techniques and quirks, their

specialisms and the books they have written. It even unlocks the mysteries of Oxford undergraduate slang (see panel).

One student admits: "I think everyone coming to Oxford has that Evelyn Waugh picture hidden away in the back of their mind, even if they don't admit it.

"Once you discover that this really doesn't exist, and never really existed, then you find that the move into college is easier."

The scheme is the brainchild of 21-year-old James Uffindell, who graduated from Mansfield

College, Oxford this year with a 2:1 in politics, philosophy and economics.

He was privately educated at Warwick School and said: "I had very good preparation for Oxford and just want to give everyone as good an opportunity as I had."

Application Research, the limited company he has now set up was created more than two years before the debate over why Laura Spence failed to get into Oxford.

There are, on average, three applicants chasing every place at the university and the company's concept is simple - to provide inside infomation to give applicants the edge.

"I hope the tutors understand why we are doing this. They may be hostile but all we are doing is trying to prepare candidates," said Mr Uffindell.

Some 250 Oxford students were paid pound;5 each to complete questionnaires about college life, tutors and the all-important interview.

Current undergraduates have been paid pound;30 to prepare briefings on the 30 Oxford colleges and graduates, pound;50 for reports on courses.

Information ranges from predicting the interview structure to the likes and dislikes of tutors and what might be discussed in English courses from Charles Dickens to Stephen King.

It gives tips on presentation for interview suggesting white or pale blue shirt, dark suit or blazer for men and long-sleeved blouses and charcoal grey suits for women.

The report also contains the more general advice to be yourself and not be intimidated.

"There is always at interview the loud, arrogant, obnoxious candidate," Mr Uffindell points out.

"Look at it from the tutors' point of view. If you don't like spending time with this type of candidate, then it is likely that the tutors will feel the same way."

Oxford Colleges Admissions Office recognised the value to would-be students of a variety of perspectives, but said it was essential that candidates looked at information produced by the university.

Selection warning, 12


Battels: bills that students must pay at the end of term covering accommodation and food eaten in "hall".

Tute: tutorial.

Plodge: porter's lodge.

Scouts: men and women who clear up your room

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