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Oxford and Cambridge receive information requests on students’ rejection

Parents of students who were rejected from the universities of Oxford or Cambridge have been using disclosure laws to find out why their children failed to gain a place.

The increasing number of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests submitted to the universities from wealthy families stems from their concern that fewer young people from affluent backgrounds are being offered places to study at Oxford and Cambridge.

The drive towards diversity and inclusion at many institutions for higher education has sparked anxiety among such groups that students from less privileged backgrounds are now being given an “unfair advantage” in the competitive admissions process.

Many parents are now seeking more detailed feedback on their child’s performance in the entrance exam and college interview in order to establish a reason for the university’s decision to reject the applicant.

Head teachers at several private schools have also expressed their concerns that “pressures on universities to broaden their intake are creating anxiety among rich families”.

One stated that some students are starting to be “reverse discriminated against” on the basis of their privileged background. Others have expressed fears about university admissions policies and practices being able to stand up to legal scrutiny.

Overall, the message coming from these private school heads is that the growing number of parents demanding feedback was “detrimental”.

Helen Pike, head teacher at Magdalen College School, told The Times: “Feedback culture is a drain on organisations…and there’s the question of how frank/truthful it will be.

“There’s a danger of inventing spurious negative reasons why people don’t succeed when often candidates were quite deserving and perfectly worthy of a place but in a strong field.”

Cambridge recently announced that it would take part in providing “adjustments” in order to give students a second chance if they achieved higher A-level grades than they were predicted.

This additional step in the standard admissions process will be reserved for students from underprivileged backgrounds whose applications made in the same admissions cycle were unsuccessful.

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