Oxford graduates urge university to accept downgraded A-level students

Nearly 3,000 Oxford University graduates have called on the institution to admit students downgraded during the A-level results controversy.

They called on the university to show “kindness and generosity” to students whose grades had been “unexpectedly and unfairly downgraded by an algorithm”.

Nearly two in five (39.1%) of teachers’ estimates for A-level pupils in England were adjusted down by one grade or more on Thursday by exam boards after this summer’s exams were cancelled amid Covid-19.

The open letter to the admissions staff and tutors at Oxford on Friday comes as one of the university’s colleges said it has confirmed all the places it offered to UK students irrespective of their A-level results.

In a statement, Worcester College said its decision came after many members of the “college community and beyond” had expressed concerns about the impact of the A-level results on incoming students.

To view this content, you'll need to update your privacy settings.
Please click here to do so.

It added: “At Worcester we made offers in 2020 to our most diverse cohort ever, and in response to the uncertainties surrounding this year’s assessment, we have confirmed the places of all our UK offer-holders, irrespective of their A-level results.”

In their open letter more than 2,700 Oxford alumni said that many students applying to the university will have already sat entrance exams and passed “challenging” interviews proving they are “bright and capable”.

The letter was organised by graduates of the same Oxford college attended by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Balliol, but has been signed by alumni from across the university.

They added: “Brilliant pupils from economically disadvantaged schools have seen their dreams dashed – while others from wealthy backgrounds saw their predicted grades confirmed.

“It cannot be right that bright, hard-working young people from poorer backgrounds have been denied their chance to overcome odds that were already stacked against them.

“To deny them places they have already earned would be a significant step back for a university which has made considerable efforts to widen access.

“This is an extraordinary situation which demands an extraordinary response.

“Oxford can show leadership in the sector, and retain the brightest students, by making this year’s offers unconditional and offering deferred admissions wherever it has exceeded capacity.”

A-level results
A-level results

The letter’s organisers, Hannah O’Rourke and Liam Whitton, added: “The Department for Education’s algorithm is discriminatory.

“It operates on an assumption that individuals cannot transcend their backgrounds: that schools cannot improve and that individuals cannot exceed your expectations of them.”

Protesters gathered outside Downing Street on Friday chanting for Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to be sacked as pressure mounted on the Government over its handling of the exams system after thousands of pupils in England had their results downgraded.

Mr Johnson has insisted that he has confidence in Mr Williamson and described the system as “robust”.

Ofqual has said that a “rare few centres” put in “implausibly high judgments”, and said that an appeals process is in place to correct any mistakes.