Benet’s – ‘common table’?
The Hall prides itself on the unique intellectual atmosphere encouraged by its ‘common table,’ but the table might be the only thing ‘common’ about dining in St Benet’s. An investigation into the student body at St Benet’s Hall reveals that it is heavily skewed toward private school students, with over 2/3 of its British-educated students having attended one.
Benet’s has more students who attended Eton and Westminster than from all non-selective secondary schools put together, and the total from Eton, Westminster and Harrow equals the number from every non-grammar state school in the UK (3104 of them in England alone).
In 2013, 33% of new British-educated undergraduates arriving in Oxford for the first time had attended a comprehensive or an academy for secondary school, compared to only 12% of current students at St Benet’s. Including FE institutions and sixth-form colleges, 21% of students at St Benet’s went to non-grammar state schools for the final two years of their education, compared to 45% of the last university-wide intake.
Officials at St Benet’s defended their admissions process. Senior Tutor Dr Santha Bhattacharji said the hall ‘has exactly the same policies with regard to recruitment of students regardless of background as all the other colleges,’ but that the figures can fluctuate each year due to its small size.
The Hall’s intake is also affected by its focus on classics: ‘unfortunately, the vast majority of candidates in Classics come from independent schools. Where there are candidates from state schools, if they are of the requisite standard for Oxford they get snapped up by first and second choice colleges, whereas the Classics Faculty does not allow either St Benet’s or Regent’s Park to have access to the Classics pool other than at 3rd choice level.’
A University spokesperson backed up these claims, stating: “Small colleges that only offer a small range of subjects will by definition have a different mix of students than the average across the whole university – and small changes in the mix of students in any given year will appear to affect the mix more than at larger colleges. Many of the subjects offered by St Benet’s feature larger numbers of applicants and successful candidates from private school backgrounds, so it isn’t surprising that the student mix reflects that.
“Overall, the University is confident that when all colleges and subjects are taken into account, the university accepts the best candidates for each subject regardless of background, whichever college they apply to.”
The University also abdicated responsibility for Benet’s admissions, citing its ‘fundamentally different’ relationship with PPHs as compared to colleges.
Tags: access — admissions — college — investigation — st benet’s