Interviews are the root of failure

21st November 2003 at 00:00
Oxbridge colleges embody that rare and wonderful thing in today's Britain, a well-funded, top-level public education facility, so we need to know about its entrance procedures.

In his letter Nigel Probert (TES, October 31) misrepresents the historic side, as well as my position. While religious discrimination was for centuries a fact of public life, the passing of the various emancipation bills during the l9th century gradually reduced it. However, while Parliament and other universities responded by admitting students not belonging to the Church of England, most dons continued to oppose change.

As a result, Jews were able to sit in Parliament a decade before they could enter Oxbridge. Women, too, were discriminated against: women could only graduate from Cambridge nearly three decades after they were given the vote.

Mr Probert also over-rates the role of Oxbridge entrance scholarships in comparison to A-levels. Most of these scholarships benefited public-school candidates.

Good A-levels remain harder to obtain at a state school than at a private one, but this is not the central problem. Most state-school candidates who apply have the same A-level predictions as private-school candidates. Their poorer success rate is largely due to interview performance.

Given these facts, scientific ability tests, seem the only fair solution, and my book, Oxbridge Entrance: The Real Rules, strongly argues for them.

Elfi Pallis

41 Canfield Gardens

Kilburn, London NW6

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