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Thursday, 20 December, 2001, 12:09 GMT
Oxford donor's snub over son's rejection
Oxford's admissions procedure is no stranger to criticism
An Oxford graduate, who has donated over 100,000 to the university over the years, has resigned as a fund raiser after his son was denied a place there.

City banker Philip Keevil has also withdrawn a pledge of a further 100,000 to his former college Trinity, where his son had applied, the Times newspaper reported.

"People may say this is just sour grapes and pretty obviously I am very sad," said Mr Keevil.

Access is the friend of intellect but the enemy of income

Michael Beloff, President of Trinity College
"The children of old members do get turned down, but someone who has been a very close friend of the college for a very long period of time should perhaps have received a 'heads-up' rather than the usual letter from the tutor for admissions.

"Universities have perhaps not yet realised that they can only really raise money from the old members. That means they have to feel they belong and they are being fairly treated.

"Probably that means that, given two equal candidates, they will perhaps have a slight bias towards the family whose family has been generous," he said.

But, after Chancellor Gordon Brown's attack on the university's admissions procedure two years ago following the rejection of state school pupil Laura Spence, Oxford dons are unsurprisingly nervous about laying themselves open to accusations of operating an "old boys' network".

Thorough selection

A spokesman for Oxford University said the decision as whether to admit an individual candidate rested with the tutors at the colleges in question.

We hope that Mr Keevil will feel able to continue his work with Oxford

Oxford University spokesman
"Oxford's selection procedure is one of the most comprehensive in the country and great care is take to evaluate each candidate as an individual in light of a range of evidence to assess their potential," said the spokesman.

"Competition is intense and Oxford receives many more well-qualified applicants than it has places available.

"We are very grateful to donors and volunteers such as Mr Keevil for the invaluable support that they give to the University and hope that Mr Keevil will feel able to continue his work with Oxford," he added.

What money can't buy

Writing in the Times on Thursday, the President of Trinity College Michael Beloff said money could not buy a place at Oxford.

Laura Spence
The Laura Spence legacy appears to live on
"The Shavian dilemma of choosing between offering a place to a suitably qualified candidate, whose father has promised in return a gift which would be of benefit to generations of students, at the expense of a worthier candidate, who would bring no such dowry in tow is not open to an Oxford Head of House," wrote Mr Beloff.

The American system - where private universities favoured former students' offspring in the admission process and used alumnus gifts to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds - was the product of a different culture, he went on.

"Access is the friend of intellect but the enemy of income.

"A college can sometimes pay a high price for its pursuit of the path of virtue," he concluded.

See also:

26 Jun 01 | Education
Oxford grants for poor students
30 Jun 00 | Education
Oxford reaches out to state schools
29 Jan 01 | Education
State pupils lead race to Oxford
13 Jul 01 | Education
Oxford given 4m for autism research
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