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The BBC's Richard Wells
"Laura's teachers fear she will not return to England to work"
 real 28k

Monday, 22 May, 2000, 12:58 GMT 13:58 UK
Oxford 'reject' wins Harvard scholarship
Laura Spence
Laura Spence: Happy to be heading for Harvard
A pupil at an English comprehensive school who was turned down by Oxford University has won a 65,000 scholarship to Harvard University in the United States.

Laura Spence is the second pupil in two years from Monkseaton Community High School in Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear, to be offered a scholarship at the prestigious university.

Her case has again raised the issue of how accessible the UK's top universities are to state school pupils.

Oxford University
Academics at Oxford said Laura did not have potential

Laura, 18, has a string of A grades at GCSE, and is expected to gain straight As at A-level.

However, after three days of tests and interviews, she was refused a place at Magdalen College, Oxford, because according to the academics there, she did not show potential.

"I think that means that I wasn't as keen as other students to sell myself, which I don't think I should be put at a disadvantage for because of my personality," Laura said.

'Oxford is missing out'

Now Laura, who wants to be a doctor, has become one of just 10 British students out of hundreds of applicants to win Harvard scholarships, and will travel 3,000 miles across the Atlantic to study biochemistry.

Her head teacher, Dr Paul Kelley, called Laura an "absolutely wonderful" student, and said Oxford was missing out.

He believes she has been discriminated against because of where she lives.

Dr Paul Kelley
Dr Paul Kelley: "There's a problem with our region"

"I'm not saying all Oxford, all Cambridge, are like that, it's certain people," he said.

"There is a problem with the poorest region. We have many other disadvantages, and I think in some minds, there's a problem with people who come from the north."

Last year, Monkseaton pupil Lara Dixon won a scholarship to read economics at Harvard, after also being turned down by Oxford.

A statement from Oxford University denied discrimination.

It said the university received a similar number of applications from students from state and private schools in the north east of England, and accepted the same proportion from each.

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13 Jul 99 | Education
Heading for Harvard
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