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what would you say to someone who thought Oxbridge were elitist? Watch

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    I and some other have always grown up with the belief that Oxbridge is an elitists establishment for the middle class and wealthy. One classic tale which always made me raise my eyebrows was this myth of a 7 (?) course meal in which you are expected to know what wine to have with any given dish, wherein ordering the wrong wine would be frowned upon, to say the least. Another impression is that you occasionally take in token charity cases to keep up the whole meritocracy 'facade', and also do 'positive discrimination' when choosing applicants, favouring people from countries with a lower rate of acceptance/ applicants as if you're collecting students like a game rather than on merit. As well as this, an extensive knowledge of philosophy is to be expected of all students, Philosophy related degree or not. It does seem slightly pretentious to me, however, I can kind of see why some philosophy might be good to know, but expecting it seems a little bit gaudy.
    I have also heard that you as an establishment are highly politically correct and many are SJWs- is this true?
    I hope I didn't offend anyone, but these are rumours which I and many have grown up with and was hoping you'd be able to explain or expel any of these rumours.

    Thanks in advance for any responses.

    Edit-3/10/17
    Thank you, everyone, for your responses! I assumed everyone would see the general message behind all the things I said but I guess not. Where I live, Oxbridge is something which is, in my opinion, pigheadedly scorned upon. These rumours are perpetuated by my teachers and the media that I'm exposed to. I have no one to ask these things - there are no Oxbridge graduates wondering around where I live (I did look). I came here with a genuine question which was intended more as an allegory but I appreciate the more literal responses too! People have commented about how I'm unable to understand archaic traditions and modern day- I am fully aware these rumours are a tad ridiculous (mainly the wine one), I was trying to understand the premise behind it. My apologies, I wasn't very clear in my question.
    PS people seem to be getting defensive - please don't! I have no malicious intentions, just, perhaps, morbid curiosity.
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    Spot on.
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    (Original post by 10161002)
    I and some other have always grown up with the belief that Oxbridge is an elitists establishment for the middle class and wealthy. One classic tale which always made me raise my eyebrows was this myth of a 7 (?) course meal in which you are expected to know what wine to have with any given dish, wherein ordering the wrong wine would be frowned upon, to say the least. Another impression is that you occasionally take in token charity cases to keep up the whole meritocracy 'facade', and also do 'positive discrimination' when choosing applicants, favouring people from countries with a lower rate of acceptance/ applicants as if you're collecting students like a game rather than on merit. As well as this, an extensive knowledge of philosophy is to be expected of all students, Philosophy related degree or not. It does seem slightly pretentious to me, however, I can kind of see why some philosophy might be good to know, but expecting it seems a little bit gaudy.
    I have also heard that you as an establishment are highly politically correct and many are SJWs- is this true?
    I hope I didn't offend anyone, but these are rumours which I and many have grown up with and was hoping you'd be able to explain or expel any of these rumours.

    Thanks in advance for any responses.
    Just tagging in LMH OXFORD Murray Edwards Admissions
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    (Original post by 10161002)
    is this true?
    The fact you and your chums have grown up believing that these things still pertain says rather more about you, your upbringing, and your ability to sift fact from fiction, modernity from history, than it does about the universities concerned.

    Academically, of course, they are elitist, and so they should be.

    Alas, all universities are moving to a regressive liberal outlook but this is not confined to Oxbridge. The traditions of freedom of thought and of expression are being sorely tested by illiberal supposed liberals among the academic and student bodies.
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    (Original post by 10161002)
    I and some other have always grown up with the belief that Oxbridge is an elitists establishment for the middle class and wealthy. One classic tale which always made me raise my eyebrows was this myth of a 7 (?) course meal in which you are expected to know what wine to have with any given dish, wherein ordering the wrong wine would be frowned upon, to say the least. Another impression is that you occasionally take in token charity cases to keep up the whole meritocracy 'facade', and also do 'positive discrimination' when choosing applicants, favouring people from countries with a lower rate of acceptance/ applicants as if you're collecting students like a game rather than on merit. As well as this, an extensive knowledge of philosophy is to be expected of all students, Philosophy related degree or not. It does seem slightly pretentious to me, however, I can kind of see why some philosophy might be good to know, but expecting it seems a little bit gaudy.
    I have also heard that you as an establishment are highly politically correct and many are SJWs- is this true?
    I hope I didn't offend anyone, but these are rumours which I and many have grown up with and was hoping you'd be able to explain or expel any of these rumours.

    Thanks in advance for any responses.
    Well that's all just completely untrue - maybe it was like that 100 years ago but it certainly isn't now. I don't think there are any more SJWs than at other universities either. If dinners have wine you don't get to pick which one, they just ask you if you want any And generally formal dinners are 3 courses or occasionally 4. I don't know anything about philosophy nor am I wealthy and at most I'd consider myself lower middle class. The only way it's elitist is in that it only wants the most gifted students, and I don't see anything wrong with trying to be the best!
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    There's quite a lot to unpack there. First of all, I'd say that Cambridge is an elite institution but that our aim is not to be elitist. It is elite in that it is one of the best universities in the world in terms of the quality of its research and of its teaching but that we strive not to be elitist - in that we are open to any one with the ability and potential to do well here and that we are welcoming of people of all backgrounds.

    There is the occasional big dinner (usually at the beginning, middle and end of your studies), indeed we have one for our freshers tonight but they aren't snobby occasions. The academics sit with the students and get a chance to get to know them and I always really look forward to it. There will be some wine (not for me though, I'm teetotal!) but the students don't order it, it gets poured for them by our brilliant serving staff and the food is provided by our fantastic chefs. Colleges are communities of staff, students and academics and we all work together to further the universities core functions of education, learning and research.

    We don't do 'charity cases' or positive discrimination - everyone who is here is here on merit, having worked really hard to get the necessary grades and to win their place in an open, academic competition.

    A knowledge of philosophy is only necessary for the philosophy course and you don't even need much of that to start with - we'll teach you philosophy as you go through the course. What you need is an interest in and ability in the subject you've chosen to study, whether that's Physics or Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, beyond that how you explore the rest of human knowledge is up to you - we aren't prescriptive!

    Cambridge is pretty left wing, both among the students and the academics, but it's not unique among universities in that (see the recent general election) but (speaking as a Tory - whisper it softly) there are people are all political persuasions and none in Cambridge. Most people don't choose to get involved in politics or to discuss it but if you do then you need to be prepared to defend your position in a vigorous debate.

    I hope that assuages some of the myths you may have heard. Cambridge is far from a perfect institution and we are all working hard to make it better and more open but people should't be put off by myths and stereotypes, they should come and meet our students and academics see for themselves.
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    Hey! Excuse the essay I'm about to write (ha!), but this is something I REALLY REALLY identify with – and I think most people probably do, so please don’t worry about offending anyone. I think it might be useful to tell you a little bit about me and my journey to Oxford.

    I’m from Slough (it’s a pretty shoddy town, but I love it! Biggest Tesco in Europe and whatnot…), from a family of 6 where nobody went to Uni, failed my 11+ and went to a school where nobody had ever applied to Oxbridge. In my mind, to go to Oxford, you had to be a very particular person (rich, well-connected, elitist…it was an image I picked up from the media, because that was my only source of information for Oxford at the time) and I simply was not it. Wasn’t going to apply to Uni, forget Oxford! I had a teacher who kept telling me to apply because I had the Alevel grades and, in the end, I only decided to apply 2 days before the deadline (eeeeek) because of the realisation that I needed to give Oxford a chance for it to give me one!!

    When I got here, I was so pleasantly surprised – everybody, regardless of what background they came from (there was a healthy mix – and it wasn’t obvious either!), was generally really nice and only really had one thing in common: an enthusiasm for their subjects. If you weren’t nice it was because you just weren’t a nice person!

    Took me a while to figure out that I could be ‘me’; it was how enthused I was by my subject, how much time I had spent pursuing my interest in books outside of school and how I engaged with them critically that the admissions tutors were concerned about. Speaking to friends made me realise that a lot of them had felt exactly the same before they applied – I think this is because of the somewhat unfair press we get.

    There were loads of opportunities to do the more ‘glamorous’ Oxford stuff – like attend a formal hall which is a lovely sit-down 3 course dinner – and they were really very fun , but I also spent a fair amount of time (maybe too much actually ) my Dominos Pizza student vouchers…

    With regards to the ‘meritocracy façade’. We really do only take you based on your academic merit and potential. We have contextual data, yes, but it is there to inform us and to ensure everybody has an equal opportunity (You can read more about that here: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/unde...al-data?wssl=1)

    I think ultimately, if there should be a takeaway message, it’s that we’re an elite university (in fact the best according to Times Higher - sorry Cambridge ), yes, but not elitist. I know it’s easy to say and sometimes hard to believe, but it’s true – if you want to apply, you should go for it! Don’t be a barrier to yourself.

    P.S. I have NEVER had a 7 course meal – and I don’t have the foggiest about wine. Also didn’t know anything about Philosophy when I came in. Wasn’t expected to either (luckily!)

    P.P.S. Come visit us on an Open Day if you can – really good way to meet the students here and see that they’re actually normal and relatable
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    Whoooops - see I got pipped to the post here, but hope the 2 replies reassure you nevertheless.
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    I think a lot of brilliant potential candidates could be put off by their only experience of Oxbridge students, namely University Challenge! How many people can relate to the unworldly intellect that the contestants demonstrate? No wonder so many people are intimidated. I do love watching the show and I have the upmost respect for the Oxbridge students but blimey, they are a clever lot!
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    (Original post by AnaBaptist)
    I think a lot of brilliant potential candidates could be put off by their only experience of Oxbridge students, namely University Challenge! How many people can relate to the unworldly intellect that the contestants demonstrate? No wonder so many people are intimidated. I do love watching the show and I have the upmost respect for the Oxbridge students but blimey, they are a clever lot!
    A friend of mine claims she got through Oxford (and graduated with a reasonably good 2:1) without being able to remember anything in books, or think of anything intelligent to say when it was demanded of her. I'm not sure if I completely believe her, but it is certainly possible to conduct oneself at Oxbridge without sounding and looking ridiculously up yourself.

    There ARE people like that at Oxford - there are also loads of people who aren't.
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    (Original post by AnaBaptist)
    I think a lot of brilliant potential candidates could be put off by their only experience of Oxbridge students, namely University Challenge!
    What? They are put of applying by the contestants on a general knowledge quiz. There can be no hope for the world. I despair. Are they similarly overawed by the contestants on Pointless, Mastermind and Only Connect?
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    Really Good Bloke? You don't think that a kid from an ordinary comprehensive school wouldn't watch University Challenge and assume that everybody at Oxbridge is incredibly bright? The universities seem to be working hard to try to debunk the myth that it's beyond the reach of most people so there must be something that's putting these kids off?
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    And as far as I can recall the contestants on Pointless, Mastermind and Only Connect (all shows I also love to watch) don't disclose which university they attend/attended.
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    (Original post by Good bloke)
    The fact you and your chums have grown up believing that these things still pertain says rather more about you, your upbringing, and your ability to sift fact from fiction, modernity from history, than it does about the universities concerned.

    Academically, of course, they are elitist, and so they should be.

    Alas, all universities are moving to a regressive liberal outlook but this is not confined to Oxbridge. The traditions of freedom of thought and of expression are being sorely tested by illiberal supposed liberals among the academic and student bodies.
    I'd imagine so- I'm from a working-class family and the school I attend is by no means extraordinary. My 'ability' is limited to what I'm told and what Google can tell me, unfortunately (not as though there are many Oxbridge graduates wondering around where I live (In fact there are none- I have tried)). You seem to be defensive which was not my desired reaction. It was a genuine question wherein I wanted to address some stigma and rumours around it. By elitist, I mean not by means of meritocracy which they preach but by a more who knows who or what-your-parent's-job-is system ultimately (not to discredit the intelligence which the candidates have).

    it also seems that many may have taken the said rumours a bit too literal. With the whatever amount of course meal, it was more about the highbrow society which demanded a knowledge of frivolous (to me) things, for example, wines types/regions etc. or Homer's Iliads or neoclassical art and so on to be initiated into.

    Basically, everything I said was more of an allegory per se. It wasn't meant to be taken literal, but I assumed people would sense the kind of message behind it (and realise that I'm asking a genuine and non-malicious question). Seems I wasn't clear enough- my apologies.
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    (Original post by Good bloke)
    The fact you and your chums have grown up believing that these things still pertain says rather more about you, your upbringing, and your ability to sift fact from fiction, modernity from history, than it does about the universities concerned.

    Academically, of course, they are elitist, and so they should be.

    Alas, all universities are moving to a regressive liberal outlook but this is not confined to Oxbridge. The traditions of freedom of thought and of expression are being sorely tested by illiberal supposed liberals among the academic and student bodies.
    As a proper liberal (Cato, Mill, that kind), I'm glad to see someone else on this forum pointing out that these supposedly liberal lefties actually hold illiberal views.

    To answer OP, in any universities you'll find people that hold different political opinions. The SJWs at the moment are the most vocal group.

    (Original post by 10161002)
    I and some other have always grown up with the belief that Oxbridge is an elitists establishment for the middle class and wealthy. One classic tale which always made me raise my eyebrows was this myth of a 7 (?) course meal in which you are expected to know what wine to have with any given dish, wherein ordering the wrong wine would be frowned upon, to say the least. Another impression is that you occasionally take in token charity cases to keep up the whole meritocracy 'facade', and also do 'positive discrimination' when choosing applicants, favouring people from countries with a lower rate of acceptance/ applicants as if you're collecting students like a game rather than on merit. As well as this, an extensive knowledge of philosophy is to be expected of all students, Philosophy related degree or not. It does seem slightly pretentious to me, however, I can kind of see why some philosophy might be good to know, but expecting it seems a little bit gaudy.
    I have also heard that you as an establishment are highly politically correct and many are SJWs- is this true?
    I hope I didn't offend anyone, but these are rumours which I and many have grown up with and was hoping you'd be able to explain or expel any of these rumours.

    Thanks in advance for any responses.
    I wouldn't agree that there's a specific kind of wine for every dish, especially if the courses are 7. These kinds of "rules" are usually spread by people who don't actually know much about wine. Having said this, white with fish, red with meat, demi-sec champagne with pudding holds some truth. Then one could say white wine with chicken meat and rosé with certain fish dishes. But those aren't actual "rules" and the more you go on the less objective it becomes. I love champagne and I have it with everything: imposing yourself strict rules is characteristic of people who don't actually appreciate wine properly.

    In an establishment that is academically elitist, you should expect a higher rate of knowledge of Philosophy and Latin than elsewhere. I consider it being aware of human culture instead of living like a 21st century-centred sheep. Nothing can be said about everyone in any place, so the statement "everyone knows philosophy/latin" is definitely wrong.
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    (Original post by LMH OXFORD)
    Hey! Excuse the essay I'm about to write (ha!), but this is something I REALLY REALLY identify with – and I think most people probably do, so please don’t worry about offending anyone. I think it might be useful to tell you a little bit about me and my journey to Oxford.

    I’m from Slough (it’s a pretty shoddy town, but I love it! Biggest Tesco in Europe and whatnot…), from a family of 6 where nobody went to Uni, failed my 11+ and went to a school where nobody had ever applied to Oxbridge. In my mind, to go to Oxford, you had to be a very particular person (rich, well-connected, elitist…it was an image I picked up from the media, because that was my only source of information for Oxford at the time) and I simply was not it. Wasn’t going to apply to Uni, forget Oxford! I had a teacher who kept telling me to apply because I had the Alevel grades and, in the end, I only decided to apply 2 days before the deadline (eeeeek) because of the realisation that I needed to give Oxford a chance for it to give me one!!

    When I got here, I was so pleasantly surprised – everybody, regardless of what background they came from (there was a healthy mix – and it wasn’t obvious either!), was generally really nice and only really had one thing in common: an enthusiasm for their subjects. If you weren’t nice it was because you just weren’t a nice person!

    Took me a while to figure out that I could be ‘me’; it was how enthused I was by my subject, how much time I had spent pursuing my interest in books outside of school and how I engaged with them critically that the admissions tutors were concerned about. Speaking to friends made me realise that a lot of them had felt exactly the same before they applied – I think this is because of the somewhat unfair press we get.

    There were loads of opportunities to do the more ‘glamorous’ Oxford stuff – like attend a formal hall which is a lovely sit-down 3 course dinner – and they were really very fun , but I also spent a fair amount of time (maybe too much actually ) my Dominos Pizza student vouchers…

    With regards to the ‘meritocracy façade’. We really do only take you based on your academic merit and potential. We have contextual data, yes, but it is there to inform us and to ensure everybody has an equal opportunity (You can read more about that here: https://www.ox.ac.uk/admissions/unde...al-data?wssl=1)

    I think ultimately, if there should be a takeaway message, it’s that we’re an elite university (in fact the best according to Times Higher - sorry Cambridge ), yes, but not elitist. I know it’s easy to say and sometimes hard to believe, but it’s true – if you want to apply, you should go for it! Don’t be a barrier to yourself.

    P.S. I have NEVER had a 7 course meal – and I don’t have the foggiest about wine. Also didn’t know anything about Philosophy when I came in. Wasn’t expected to either (luckily!)

    P.P.S. Come visit us on an Open Day if you can – really good way to meet the students here and see that they’re actually normal and relatable
    thanks for your response and the time you took- I really appreciate. What a few people on the forum don't understand is that I don't have someone to ask if these things are true. The teachers in my school don't care and my parents and friends are working class to the bone- they view Oxbridge as something to scorn rather than something to understand (which I'm currently trying). But I Reeeally appreciate this
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    It isnt necessarily the institutions themselves - its usually the snotty reputation, and excessive 'entitled' behaviour of some of the students who go there that is often off putting to applicants from other backgrounds. However, if Oxbridge were to grow-up a bit and get rid of half their daft traditions, ceremonies and jargon it might make them look more attractive to less traditional applicants.

    (And yes, Oscar Powell and his ludicrous behaviour on UC was the worst possible advert Cambridge could ever have thought of in terms of making the place look less 'up itself'.)
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    (Original post by AnaBaptist)
    Really Good Bloke? You don't think that a kid from an ordinary comprehensive school wouldn't watch University Challenge and assume that everybody at Oxbridge is incredibly bright? The universities seem to be working hard to try to debunk the myth that it's beyond the reach of most people so there must be something that's putting these kids off?
    Most students at Oxbridge are, indeed, bright - that's how they got a place. However UC is not representative of all (or even most) students. There's 600 or so in a college, and only 4 of them on a UC team. The 4 best quizzers, that's all they are.

    Equally, The Boat Race isn't representaive either.

    And neither is The Bullingdon.

    (Note how different each of these stereotypes of Oxbridge actually are...)

    Most Oxbridge students are just like every other student in any university.
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    (Original post by returnmigrant)
    However, if Oxbridge were to grow-up a bit and get rid of half their daft traditions, ceremonies and jargon it might make them look more attractive to less traditional applicants.
    The traditions that I was exposed to weren't negative IMO, although sitting exams in a suit, white bow tie and gown, was a little odd. I never got the alleged ale either

    I grew-up in Sheffield, and went to (decent) state schools. I don't remember why I applied to Oxford, but I was certain that my interview stay would be the last time I was there, especially after arguing with one interviewer about how his approach to a problem was way too complicated. When I started, I quickly realised that I had fully deserved a place (not that it was easy though).

    There will always be a few prats, but most people (regardless of state or public school background) are nice.
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    (Original post by AnaBaptist)
    Really Good Bloke? You don't think that a kid from an ordinary comprehensive school wouldn't watch University Challenge and assume that everybody at Oxbridge is incredibly bright? The universities seem to be working hard to try to debunk the myth that it's beyond the reach of most people so there must be something that's putting these kids off?
    Although to look at it a bit more positively, the undeniable fizzing intellects of many of the Oxbridge UC contestants also acts as an advert for those colleges and will create a deep wish to be one of their kind amongst many intelligent viewers. That's not a bad thing.
 
 
 
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