(Original post by sj27)
I'm confused as to why you think it's "totally unfair". The entry requirements are on the website - why did he apply if he doesn't meet them? He missed both entry requirements btw as they want a distinction at masters too. (A CFA is considered a professional, not an academic, qualification btw so that's irrelevant for a PhD application.) Why is it any more unfair than a university rejecting someone for undergraduate study or a masters because they don't meet the minimum entry requirements?
I think the entry requirements are indicators. It doesn't mean that if you don't fully satisfy them you def get a rejection. PhD is much different than undergraduate degree.
First of all, when you apply for undergraduate degree you are 18-20 years old. The acceptance rate is much higher, more flexible, you do not need to show some specific ability but you need to show an overall, a good performance. Also, in you class you might see students with 3A*s but you might see students with 2A*s and B even if the entry requirement is 3A*s.
On the other hand, the acceptance rate for PhD is very low, compare with ug degrees. You are a person with a degree, you choose to do a PhD for different reasons, (most probably is because you want to become an academic, researcher), you have an idea, you have a specific interest, ability of doing research, you are focus on a specific thing, you choose your career, you have motivation and strength to spend 3-4 even 5 years to research a topic, a problem, an idea. It is completely different than ug.
In terms of why he applied, because he wants to become an academic, you worked in a bank, he has the knowledge, the experience, he has seen how the things actually work, he find a gap. He has 2.1(overall performance is more than good), Distinction from LSE and a CFA. By quitting his job, returned to academic world showed that he actually wants to do that. Also, his research proposal was excellent, that's why he is now in US, doing his phd in one of the top universities. I am not saying why he didn't get a place, I am saying that he didn't actually have the chance to do an interview. He got a rejection and the reason was of his 2.1!
What I mean is 'totally unfair', is that Cambridge prefers to take someone who is 22 years with a first in his degree for a phd in (something), instead of considering a student who has better knowledge, more abilities, a better (let's say CV), only because he/she has a 2.1. Just to clarify something, I said that because I know current phd students at Cambridge (specifically I know two students) with a First in their degree and they had this opportunity (WOW A PHD FROM CAMBRIDGE), they hate doing research, they don't like the environment, they don't want to work as a researcher, academics, they didn't have the dream to do that, they never worked. I personally don't find this fair. I truly accept your opinion and if you have different one but I guess, if you want to do a phd, at some point, motivation is much better than what you actually get in your degree!