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Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
Oxford was right, says Laura
Magdalen College, Oxford
Oxford University came under fire for Laura's rejection
Laura Spence, the student at the centre of a heated debate over Oxford elitism, has admitted the university was right to reject her.

Last summer Laura's story hit the headlines, after Chancellor Gordon Brown described her rejection from Magdalen College to study medicine as "an absolute scandal".

I never doubted Oxford's decision

Laura Spence
She was turned down - despite being a straight A grade candidate - because she came from a comprehensive school in the north east of England, Mr Brown suggested.

But, in an interview with the Daily Mail, Laura says, far from being a victim of the Oxbridge selection process, she was not worthy of a place.

"I never doubted Oxford's decision," Laura, who is now studying at Harvard in the United States, told the Mail.

"I was a bit upset when I came out of the interview because I knew I hadn't done as well as I thought I could have."

Other candidates who performed better at the interview were more deserving of a place, she said, and admitted she could have prepared more thoroughly.

Not a 'perfect example'

Laura is now keen to put the publicity behind her and was diplomatic when asked what she felt about Mr Brown's intervention.

"I wouldn't say I was used, exactly," she said.

Laura Spence
Laura Spence is now studying at Harvard University
"But I don't think I was a perfect example of what he was trying to point out because I don't feel that being from the North or a comprehensive mattered in my case."

The row broke out after a local newspaper ran an article about Laura's acceptance of a place at Harvard.

It mentioned the fact that she had been offered a place, despite being turned down by Oxford.

"None of this would have happened if I hadn't participated in that newspaper article. But neither I nor my family saw it coming," she said.

The situation escalated when her head teacher, Dr Paul Kelley, publicly criticised Oxford for rejecting his star pupil.

As the row ensued, Laura said she just got on with her revision and did not watch television for a week.

"He blames himself for the fuss, but he didn't intentionally make things difficult for me," she said.

And she is still in contact with Dr Kelley by e-mail.

Lure of the USA

Laura is thoroughly enjoying university life in the States and, in a further blow to Gordon Brown's crusade, hinted that she may not have taken up a place at Oxford, had it been offered.

"Being away from home has given me a totally different experience which would have been very hard to turn down," she said.

Dr Paul Kelley
Laura is still in touch with her former head teacher, Dr Paul Kelley
She applied to Harvard after falling in love with Boston during two trips to the city as a teenager with her school orchestra.

In line with the American education system, Laura is taking a four-year general degree course - in her first year she studied eight subjects and will now major in biology.

She still wants to be a doctor, but will have to complete a medical degree once she graduates.

She says she will probably return to the UK for this and may even apply to Oxford or Cambridge - but she would work hard to "improve" upon her earlier interview performance.

See also:

26 May 00 | UK Politics
Labour's 'class war' over Oxbridge
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