Banker withdraws a £100,000 pledge to his old college at Oxford University after his son was turned down for a place
December 20, 2001 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Banker withdraws a £100,000 pledge to his old college at Oxford University after his son was turned down for a place - a newsworthy event in the UK not because the man's son was refused, but because he presumed that his donations would have bought his son's entrance. An interesting comparison with family privilege and US private colleges, perhaps?
posted by kitschbitch (10 comments total)
Wanting 'a "slight bias towards the candidate whose family has been generous"' from an institution supported by the taxpayer? I suppose he imagined he'd entered into some kind of nod-and-a-wink behind the scenes agreement, and felt betrayed. Still, what a twat.
posted by Mocata at 9:45 AM on December 20, 2001

The nerve of people to attach strings to their giving! Maybe this gent heard about our very own Nike CEO Founder Philip Knight canceled a $30 million gift to University of Oregon ...that's why they call it the gold standard: the people with the gold set the standards.
posted by Mack Twain at 10:07 AM on December 20, 2001

Well I disagree. Look at it from the father's side. He's already given £100.000 to his old college. Then he pledges another 100K. Meanwhile, the college rejects his son. Why should he go ahead?
I know this is very Latin but going ahead and giving the money would be betraying his own son.
His only mistake was assuming Oxford colleges work the same way all the public(i.e.very private)schools in England do. Nepotism and England go together like crumpets and jam. It's not bloody unheard of at Oxford either...
Perhaps the son would rather have a Porsche Carrera to help assuage the pain.
Or better still, give the money to the University who does accept his son on his own merits.
I know Oxford fairly well and I suspect reverse discrimination, i.e., they refused the son because the father was a financial supporter. And damn made sure The Guardian knew about it too.
Beware perfidious Albion! :)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:20 AM on December 20, 2001

Besides, his son is a straight A's student, not some indolent jerk living off his father's estate. Actually, probably both!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:23 AM on December 20, 2001

American universities do accept large donations. Said donations do buy admission, as do legacies (e.g. The Bushs at Yale), but that neither means these schools cannot be top flight (read: Yale, Harvard, etc.), nor that "deserving" students are denied admission. The fact remains that the best universities in the world remain certain private American universities. So, I think Oxford acted in a very stupid manner.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:36 AM on December 20, 2001

In a case like this, it'd be interesting to know the reasons why the son was turned down. Although admissions is always a highly subjective thing, you have to wonder what the black mark was - and if it was just the fact the university was trying to make a point about 'buying your way in'.
posted by rich at 10:44 AM on December 20, 2001

I was up in Oxford for four days last week on interview (I got in, yay..), and its really not the easiest place to get into for some subjects - the main evilly difficult ones are Economics and Management, Law, Medicine, PPP and PPE. In fact, I'd say its a damn sight harder than getting into US unis like Harvard, Yale etc - why? Because some of my friends got rejected from Oxford (and Cambridge) with 4 or even 5 As at A Level and breezed into US unis like Harvard and Brown..

However.. Anyone remember the case of Laura Spence a while back? 5 A prediction, came from a state school, got rejected from Oxford for Medicine, leading to a huge outcry and the Education secretary making threats and telling off Oxford. She ended up going to Harvard, but Oxford were still accused of elitism.. I'd like to think that they do their selection based on academic ability alone - however, that can be tough at times..

I can perfectly well see why this guy decided not to go ahead with the 100k - would you have?
posted by Mossy at 2:17 PM on December 20, 2001

Oxford 'reject' wins Harvard scholarship: BBC story about Laura Spence.
posted by Carol Anne at 2:56 PM on December 20, 2001

I'm not sure what the acceptance rates at Oxford, but some American universities really are damn difficult to get into. In America, too, I think there's probably more of an all-around categorization: I know a kid with a 3.9/1340 who got into Harvard, but was also an all-around nice kid who was pretty decent at football (though certainly not an all-state caliber) and had done a bit of work in the community. Another friend of mine had a 1600 on the SAT's and a 3.8 in IB coursework, but isn't even a shoein for a college like Chicago b/c he hasn't done enough extracurricular activities.

Colleges like Princeton and CalTech are only accepting about 6 or 7% of their applicants (I believe 1100 accepted out of 15000 applied at Princeton last year), and I think that many of the applicants have extraordinary stats. I think that it's probably easier for Brits (or foriegners in general) to get into prestigious US universities, too, because many of them was geographical diversity, and there are less people applying to Harvard from Plymouth, UK than from Plymouth, Mass.

As for Mack Twain's link, Eugene is my town and the whole Phil Knight deal was ridiculous. He's the single biggest donor to the University, went to the University, and started Nike in the town of the university, so clearly they're pretty linked. However, some students at the (quite left-wing) university demanded that the Uni join some worker's rights groups as concerning the uniforms and school-logo goods. Knight had already agreed to have independent inspectors in his factories overseas (and, if I'm not mistaken, Nike is known positively for the quality of their overseas worker treatment in recent years). So despite Phil Knight being vastly important to the University, the U signed up for the Worker's Rights groups, bowing to the pressure (mainly because a bunch of protestors were camping on the Dean's lawn, I believe).

This wouldn't have stopped Knight's donations. What stopped the donations was that he found out through the newspaper about the plan. Doesn't the university have a chivalric duty to let their biggest donor know that he will probably have his company affected by the latest U plans?
posted by Kevs at 3:03 PM on December 20, 2001

The top US universities reject many legacies every year.

Being a legacy is a "plus factor" if your academics are slightly below the school's target, but it will not overcome academics which are significantly below target. Based on my observations, legacy is a far less powerful plus factor than being of a racial minority or being an athlete in a targetted sport (i.e., a sport in which the school has a traditionally successful program -- e.g., at Harvard, hockey or crew, or, at Princeton, baskeball), and is at most co-equal to being from a socioeconomically deprived background or being a standout athlete in a non-targetted sport or a first-class performing artist. It probably is a bigger plus than all the other "extracurriculars," but, in my opinion, most of the other extracurriculars are total BS anyway, at least as a tool of distinguishing competing applicants' levels of aptitude and determination.

It is very hard to unpack the alleged weight of legacies because universities don't typically break out their alumni-children admissions by whether or not a legacy preference was material to their admissions. The percentage of alumni children who apply as first choice (measured by early action or early decision), and the percentage of those admitted in any season who enroll, are powerful statistics for universities because they so well reflect alumni satisfaction, which is a critically important competitive and fiscal metric.

At many schools, in fact, alumni affection for the alma mater is so strong -- and the quality of preparatory education that successful alumni can afford their children so high -- that the average legacy admit is significantly better qualified than the average non-legacy admit.
posted by MattD at 3:19 PM on December 20, 2001

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