LETTER : Oxford must ease pressure on students

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The Independent Online
Sir: I had tutorials with Sarah Napuk in our first year of Oxford ("Family blame Oxford for student's death," 22 July). In one of the last conversations I had with her, she told me she had been told to work 12 hours a day.

I do not deny that Oxford attracts perfectionists and those already prone to depression. But since such people will always form a very high percentage of those accepted by the university, tutors who refuse to recognise that they must offer high levels of support reveal the utmost arrogance and irresponsibility.

I do not blame the counselling services, but rather the unrepresentative exam system and the university's refusal to monitor or discipline its tutors over their standards in teaching, or the pressure they place upon students, or, in some cases, their repeated sexual harassment of students.

For me, Finals were a test of stamina and my short-term memory. By the arrival of my exams I was unable to eat anything but yoghurt or soup. I gained a 2:1 and not the First I was repeatedly told I was capable of. If I had not been able to win awards from my college, I would feel that my three years of hard work and a final year of enormous stress had been totally ignored by Oxford.

In 1999 one of the seven history papers will be replaced by compulsory course work. This is wholly inadequate.