Alice Jones: Leave the profs and their daft questions alone

IMHO...

Share
Related Topics

How would you measure the weight of your own head?" "Would you rather be a novel or a poem?" "Will you throw this brick through that window?"

The mystique of Oxbridge interviews and the impossible questions posed therein is a perennial favourite. By the time I went for mine, I'd heard so many apocryphal horror stories I was convinced I'd be greeted by a disembodied head in a dusty mortar board asking me simply: "Why?"

Of course, nothing of the sort happened, and I've yet to meet a single person who was asked anything similar, but Oxbridge must continue to work hard to dispel these off-putting rumours. Pupils not lucky enough to have schools or parents on hand to dismiss such tales may find them at best confusing, at worst terrifying.

But to phase out the traditional interview altogether, as Simon Hughes suggested this week, is not the answer. The Government's Advocate for access to education declared that interviews should be "absolutely removed from the people who do the teaching" and handed over to a qualified "admissions team", lest the profs develop a "bond" with certain candidates.

Quite apart from the insulting notion that academics are unable to follow objective guidelines for admissions, this idea disregards what the universities prize most highly, their teaching system. Those 30-minute encounters are a practice run for the three years of one-on-one tutorials that follow, as much a chance for prospective students to try it out and meet those most dedicated to their chosen subject as for tutors to probe the limits of their brains.

It's yet more bureaucratic meddling in academia from a government whose fees will do far more damage to university access than any obscure questions about Ovid ever could.

Did you get one of the greatest tickets on earth? Or, failing that, a seat at the Greco-Roman wrestling? Me neither. Never fear, Team Disappointed! There are still millions of tickets available for London 2012, if you're willing to swap Bolt for Blanchett, Hoy for Hockney and Adlington for Albarn, that is. It's a year to go until the London 2012 Festival, the 12-week, £45m grand finale to the Cultural Olympiad which has, apparently, been running since 2008.

The artistic sideshow has attracted some impressive names including Damien Hirst, Jude Law, Mike Leigh and Plan B. Look more closely, though and many events that are being trumpeted have little to do with LOCOG. Damon Albarn's opera will have premiered a year earlier at the Manchester International Festival. Hirst's Tate retrospective has been planned for years. Plan B is headlining Radio 1's annual weekender.

There will be a few new commissions and support for arts events – that £93.4m budget won't spend itself – but shoving calendar staples like the Tate's Turbine Hall show and Edinburgh Hogmanay under the Olympiad banner is bizarre. Its director, Ruth Mackenzie, could just as well be called Chief Magpie, earning a cushy £130,000 salary for picking the finest gems of the year and hustling them into her programme.

It's fantastic that the arts have a platform at this global sporting event. It's also clear that sticking an Olympic logo on our finest cultural exports doesn't really add anything. We don't need an expensive Olym-piad to flex our creative muscles: they're in excellent shape as it is.

The YBAs are dead. Long live the MBAs! It had to happen eventually: the Young British Artists have become Middle-aged. This week, Selfridges unveiled a range of homeware designed by Tracey Emin (left). There are bone china mugs, cat bowls, aprons and teapots costing £95. And not a used condom, cigarette butt or swear word in sight.

Meanwhile, Damien Hirst is selling butterfly-adorned deckchairs and – mid-life crisis alert! – skull-print hoodies at Other Criteria. Even enfants terribles, it seems, grow up to enjoy the sedate pleasures of afternoon tea and sunbathing in the garden, as their retirement nest eggs grow and grow. Just one request, Tracey, please don't diversify into bed linen.

i@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea