Prestige, opportunity, immersion in the academic, fulfilment of a dream, Brideshead Revisited. These were all reasons why I wanted to go to Oxford. But I failed, fell off my high horse, had to settle for the ordinary. And - I never thought I'd say this - I'm glad.

Here's one reason why. On the day of my interview to read English Literature, Oxford, bathed in bright, December sunshine, couldn't have looked more beautiful. The only thing that wasn't was the all-important part - the interview. When I walked into the library, I saw not one, but four tweed- suited dons. That was terrifying enough. The fact that not one of them even acknowledged my presence for about three minutes was worse. By the time they eventually came to focus their attention on me, I was totally unnerved. Fixing me with an intense stare, the youngest of the four finally broke the silence.

"Why are you wearing trousers rather than a skirt?" he asked. I mumbled about the cold weather. "Aren't her legs a girl's biggest advantage?" he replied.

Now, I know it was a thinly disguised challenge, a test of my patience and principles, but to me it speaks volumes about the system it came from. It suggests that my being there would have involved certain conditions - that I should always be aware of the obvious academic superiority of those who taught me and accept, to a certain degree, that I might be mentally played with, made to squirm at the whim of those superiors.

I'm not saying this would definitely have been so (though I've heard tales that make me wonder). I'm not even saying I wasn't (eventually) given the chance to justify myself academically. But I can't help feeling that a valuable education is one which teaches you your own worth, and encourages you to shine rather than challenges you to. I don't want to leave university having learned nothing but my own inferiority. Chloe Fox