A prospective student of one of the most prestigious colleges in the UK has sent the University of Oxford a damning ‘rejection letter’, telling officials that she was not impressed by the way they intimidated state school pupils in an interview process that she described as ‘torture’.
Elly Nowell, 19, said she felt like “the only atheist in a gigantic monastery” when she visited Magdalen College for her interview. She subsequently decided to withdraw her bid to read Law at the university.
The Telegraph reports that in a ‘parody’ of the kind of rejection letter universities often send to unsuccessful applicants, Miss Nowell launched a withering attack on the college whose alumni include Oscar Wilde, King Edward VIII and George Osborne, which she later posted online.
The college has a fierce reputation. In 2000, Magdalen refused a place to Laura Spence, a former comprehensive pupil with five As at A-level to her name. The decision was described by the then-chancellor Gordon Brown as an “absolute scandal”.
Miss Nowell, a former pupil of Brockenhurst College, Hampshire, wrote:
“I have now considered your establishment as a place to read Law (jurisprudence).
“I very much regret to inform you that I will be withdrawing my application.
“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.”
A spokesman for the university said Miss Nowell had withdrawn her application on the UCAS system shortly after her interview and emailed the college informing them of her decision.
“The application was withdrawn before she would have been aware whether or not her application had been successful.”
In the letter, Miss Nowell made it clear that it was her experience at her interview that had put her off. Under the subheading “Guidelines for Re-application”, she wrote:
“While you may believe your decision to hold interviews in grand formal settings is inspiring, it allows public school applicants to flourish and intimidates state school applicants, distorting the academic potential of both.
“It was while I was at interview that I finally noticed that subjecting myself to the judgment of an institution which I fundamentally disagreed with was bizarre.
“I spent my entire time there laughing at how seriously everything was being taken.”
She added, dryly:
“Perhaps offer a glass of water in your interviews next time; it is rude to torture guests.”
An Oxford University spokeswoman said:
“Despite what the candidate said, we would point out that the actual admissions figures speak for themselves: of the seven UK students who received offers for law and joint school courses at Magdalen, only one was from an independent school.”
Nowell said she hopes to study at University College, London instead.