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Revenge – for everyone turned down by Oxbridge

Candidate turns the tables by sending Magdalen College a letter of rejection

Liam O'Brien
Thursday 19 January 2012 01:00 GMT
After withdrawing her application to Magdalen College Elly Nowell told the university not to try to ‘reapply'
After withdrawing her application to Magdalen College Elly Nowell told the university not to try to ‘reapply' (Rex Features)

A state-school pupil from Hampshire who was invited to Oxford University for an interview turned the tables on the institution by writing her own letter of rejection because it "did not quite meet the standard" of other universities.

In a parody of the thousands of consolatory letters fired off by the élite institution each December, Elly Nowell, 19, 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."

The Brockenhurst College student, whose first-choice preference is University College London, wrote to Magdalen College after being put off by her interview experience. She warned the university to hold off on any attempts to "reapply".

"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," she said, criticising the College's "traditions and rituals" and a perceived gulf between "minorities and white middle-class students".

Oxford University dismissed the claims. "Despite what the candidate said, we would point out that the actual admissions figures speak for themselves," it said, stating that of the seven UK students who received offers for the law and joint school course at Magdalen, only one was privately educated.

Law students at Magdalen College, who are subjected to two interviews and a test before being offered a place, also condemned the letter.

"There are lots of state-school students here, especially on the law course. The implication that there's some kind of discrimination is ridiculous," said 20-year-old Christy Rush from Bristol.

Ms Nowell later said that the country's two best universities are often treated with hallowed awe and reverence, making her letter a rare exception.

Last year, it was revealed that just five schools, including Eton and Westminster, have sent more pupils to Oxbridge than 2,000 lower-performing schools combined.

Thanks but no thanks: Oxford rejects

JK Rowling

The Harry Potter author is used to rejection letters. She received piles of them from publishers before being snapped up by Bloomsbury. As a student she was spurned by Oxford, studying instead at Exeter.

Jarvis Cocker

The Pulp frontman managed to get an interview at Oxford, but lied about having read Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles. He later concentrated on music but ended up studying fine art and film at London's Central Saint Martins.

Laura Spence

Gordon Brown called Magdalen College's decision to reject the state school pupil in 2000 "an absolute scandal". Ms Spence chose Harvard instead and later studied medicine at Cambridge.

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