- Elly Nowell, 19, tells Magdalen College it ‘did not quite meet the standard of universities I will be considering’
- She writes that she found ‘obvious gap’ between minorities and white middle-class students ’embarrassing’
It is not often that Oxford University finds itself receiving a rejection letter from a would-be student, rather than issuing them with one.
So it will have raised a few scholarly eyebrows when state-educated Elly Nowell, 19, wrote to the elite institution’s Magdalen College without even waiting to hear whether her application to read law had been successful.
In a parody of Oxford’s own rejection letters, she told admissions tutors: ‘I realise you may be disappointed by this decision, but you were in competition with many fantastic universities and following your interview I am afraid you do not quite meet the standard of the universities I will be considering.’
Miss Nowell, who says she changed her mind about Oxford after being put off by her experience at interview, claimed its admissions process was biased against state-school pupils – despite them making up more than half the university’s intake.
She wrote: ‘Whilst you may believe your decision to hold interviews in grand formal settings is inspiring, it allows public school applicants to flourish in the environment they are accustomed to and intimidates state school applicants, distorting the true academic potential of both.’
The teenager also claimed there were ‘significant flaws’ in Oxford’s education system and argued that the ‘gap between elitism and discrimination’ was a ‘narrow one’ that the college had not ‘adequately addressed’.
She wrote: ‘Whilst you may believe your traditions and rituals are impressive, they reflect badly on your university…frankly, I feel humiliated for both you and your students.’
Describing the interview process as ‘torture’, she accused the college of being ‘rude’ for not offering her a glass of water.
She also claimed there was an ‘obvious gap’ between minorities and white middle-class students that she found ‘embarrassing’.
Miss Nowell, of Winchester, Hampshire, even cheekily warned the university to hold off on any attempts to ‘reapply’ and wished it ‘every success in future’.
‘Whilst you may believe your decision to hold interviews in grand formal settings is inspiring, it allows public school applicants to flourish in the environment they are accustomed to and intimidates state school applicants, distorting the true academic potential of both.’
Oxford yesterday hit back at her claims, pointing to figures that show that for 2010 entry, 55.4 per cent of places for UK students went to state school pupils.
Full figures for UK 2011 entry are not yet available but 58.5 per cent of offers were to state school pupils.
A spokesman said: ‘The irony is that six out of the seven people offered law places at Magdalen were state-educated.
‘It’s really important to understand that school attainment is the biggest factor affecting Oxford’s mix of students – not the way Oxford selects them.’
Magdalen College, which counts among its alumni Foreign Secretary William Hague, Private Eye editor Ian Hislop, documentary-maker Louis Theroux and Oscar Wilde, interviewed Miss Nowell, a student at Brockenhurst College, Hampshire, in December.
She is predicted to get A*s in her history, law and English literature A-levels, and now hopes to read law at University College London.
She said: ‘It was during my interview that I finally realised subjecting myself to the judgment of an institution I fundamentally disagreed with was bizarre.
‘I spent my entire time at the university laughing at how seriously they were taking everything and felt like the only atheist in a gigantic monastery.’
Oxford students took to Twitter to vent their anger at Miss Nowell yesterday. One, going under the name ‘jpspencer2’, said: ‘Elly Nowell has no idea what it is like to go to Oxford. Her own stupid and narrow-minded opinions show why she would not be fit to go here.’