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    To be honest, I'm as confused as I was at the beginning xD Everyone is giving different answers. I'm not that bothered really, I will just do the best I can, but I'm still interested and would like to understand it
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    (Original post by lukerules1234)
    So I think I understand....

    If your GCSEs/Personal statement/GCSEs/Predicted grades are very good, then you are invited for a interview at the college of your choice? And then if you don't do as well in the interview, another college can pool you?
    The details vary but in general subjects will try to ensure the interview pools at each college are equal in size (in terms of ratio of applicants to places) and the more strongly assessed candidates are as far as possible equally distributed. Banding pre-interview will take into account what is in the UCAS application and any admissions test scores.

    Post interview, candidates are either ranked high enough to gain a place or they are not. If more candidates at a college are ranked high enough than there are places, some will be exported to a college where there are fewer candidates ranked high enough than places.
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    (Original post by lukerules1234)
    So it's to do with how you 'rub off' on the tutors? And this 'rubbing off' is basically random, since all college tutors have their own preferences ?
    Well, no. As we said, there will be a subject ranking - this is overseen by the Admissions Coordinators for each Department. All the candidate details go into a database and there will be a pre-interview ranking based on the UCAS application and the admissions score. Submitted work scores and admission test scores factor into this.

    .
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    (Original post by BrasenoseAdm)
    The details vary but in general subjects will try to ensure the interview pools at each college are equal in size (in terms of ratio of applicants to places) and the more strongly assessed candidates are as far as possible equally distributed. Banding pre-interview will take into account what is in the UCAS application and any admissions test scores.

    Post interview, candidates are either ranked high enough to gain a place or they are not. If more candidates at a college are ranked high enough than there are places, some will be exported to a college where there are fewer candidates ranked high enough than places.
    I see. So the admissions people don't really care about you individually when pooling, they'll just do it randomly to ensure the quality in each college is equal?

    What if the college only allowed in say 4 people for a subject; would these 4 people be evenly spread in terms of quality?

    Also, if what you're basically saying is that there is an element of randomness to it, then what is the point of putting a college preference down in the first place?
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    The point of choosing a college is that typically around 3 in 4 new students go to the college they chose. The randomness is that pre/post interview pooling (& open applications...which really are pointless as you'll only ever get allocated to colleges with fewer applicants) mean 1 in 4 do not. Choose a college you 'like'. Accept you might go somewhere else. If you get a place you really won't wind up caring & whichever college you join becomes home.
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    (Original post by lukerules1234)
    I see. So the admissions people don't really care about you individually when pooling, they'll just do it randomly to ensure the quality in each college is equal?

    What if the college only allowed in say 4 people for a subject; would these 4 people be evenly spread in terms of quality?

    Also, if what you're basically saying is that there is an element of randomness to it, then what is the point of putting a college preference down in the first place?
    There is an element of randomness to pooling. The reason for putting down a college preference is because colleges get first dibs on their own applicants I think (see for example https://www.merton.ox.ac.uk/admissio...studies-europe - for Law, "Colleges were able to nominate up to two of their first choice applicants per available place and then a Faculty Selection Committee identified further candidates to be reallocated to colleges.") According to one of my Law tutors, the reallocation (at least for Law) is done by a computer algorithm and so is pretty random.

    I think the quality spread is consistent across colleges. So say in one year, taking into account the UCAS application/ written work/ admissions test, the average across the university pre-interview for a subject is 20% band 1 candidates, 40% band 2 and 40% band 3. Only candidates in bands 1 and 2 are shortlisted.

    College A has 30% band 1 candidates, 40% band 2 and 30% band 3. College B has 10% band 1 candidates, 40% band 2 and 50% band 3.

    To ensure fairness, some of college A's band 1 candidates would then be reallocated to college B to even out the quality of the interview pools. Therefore, all colleges would have an even quality pool at interviews.

    When it comes to making offers, all the candidates get ranked again. Say college B's applicants performed extremely well in the interviews, and there are 5 worthy applicants with only 3 spots. College A's applicants don't do so well, and only produce 2 worthy applicants with 4 spots. College B's extra 2 worthy applicants would then be made offers by college A, rather than college A taking two relatively weaker applicants from their own interviewee pool.

    Does that make sense?
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    (Original post by mishieru07)
    There is an element of randomness to pooling. The reason for putting down a college preference is because colleges get first dibs on their own applicants I think (see for example https://www.merton.ox.ac.uk/admissio...studies-europe - for Law, "Colleges were able to nominate up to two of their first choice applicants per available place and then a Faculty Selection Committee identified further candidates to be reallocated to colleges." According to one of my Law tutors, the reallocation (at least for Law) is done by a computer algorithm and so is pretty random.

    I think the quality spread is consistent across colleges. So say in one year, taking into account the UCAS application/ written work/ admissions test, the average across the university pre-interview for a subject is 20% band 1 candidates, 40% band 2 and 40% band 3. Only candidates in bands 1 and 2 are shortlisted.

    College A has 30% band 1 candidates, 40% band 2 and 30% band 3. College B has 10% band 1 candidates, 40% band 2 and 50% band 3.

    To ensure fairness, some of college A's band 1 candidates would then be reallocated to college B to even out the quality of the interview pools. Therefore, all colleges would have an even quality pool at interviews.

    When it comes to making offers, all the candidates get ranked again. Say college B's applicants performed extremely well in the interviews, and there are 5 worthy applicants with only 3 spots. College A's applicants don't do so well, and only produce 2 worthy applicants with 4 spots. College B's extra 2 worthy applicants would then be made offers by college A, rather than college A taking two relatively weaker applicants from their own interviewee pool.

    Does that make sense?
    That does, thank you so much !

    In your example in the last paragraph where you say College B's extra 2 worthy applicants would then be made offers by College A; how are the 2 applicants that are the 'extras' chosen? Would it be that they were not quite as good as the other 3, or would they be picked randomly?

    Also, if someone was brilliant in all aspects of their application, are you saying that they will not be guaranteed a place at their chosen college? They have as equal a chance as someone who was not as good ('band 3')?
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    (Original post by lukerules1234)
    So it's to do with how you 'rub off' on the tutors? And this 'rubbing off' is basically random, since all college tutors have their own preferences ?
    At the pre-interview stage, it's pretty much random. I have no idea at what point the tutors at each college even see students' applications, since most of it will be done centrally.

    Could I ask what you're actually trying to find out by asking these questions? Are you trying to assess your likelihood of getting an interview at a college other than your first choice? Because if so it would be helpful to know which college you're applying to.
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    (Original post by Beth_H)
    At the pre-interview stage, it's pretty much random. I have no idea at what point the tutors at each college even see students' applications, since most of it will be done centrally.

    Could I ask what you're actually trying to find out by asking these questions? Are you trying to assess your likelihood of getting an interview at a college other than your first choice? Because if so it would be helpful to know which college you're applying to.
    I applied to Worcester, but my main reason for asking is because I am just interested Geography at Worcester is v competitive, so there is a fairly high chance I would be pooled, but there's not a lot I can do about it now!

    Of course, this is all assuming I do well in the TSA (*touch wood*) !!
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    In conclusion....

    (Original post by SonOfAGeek)
    The point of choosing a college is that typically around 3 in 4 new students go to the college they chose. The randomness is that pre/post interview pooling (& open applications...which really are pointless as you'll only ever get allocated to colleges with fewer applicants) mean 1 in 4 do not. Choose a college you 'like'. Accept you might go somewhere else. If you get a place you really won't wind up caring & whichever college you join becomes home.
    I am just interested in how they go about it
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    (Having read all of this, is it any wonder that many applicants find the entire Oxford application process totally baffling and apply somewhere else. If Oxford is actually serious about increasing social diversity, this archaic and unfathomable process really does need a total overhaul.)
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    (Original post by Beth_H)
    At the pre-interview stage, it's pretty much random. I have no idea at what point the tutors at each college even see students' applications, since most of it will be done centrally.

    Could I ask what you're actually trying to find out by asking these questions? Are you trying to assess your likelihood of getting an interview at a college other than your first choice? Because if so it would be helpful to know which college you're applying to.
    My impression is that at the pre-interview stage, each college is responsible for looking at its own applicants. The tutors then get together to discuss as a faculty across colleges.

    This is unlike postgraduate admissions, where applications are looked at centrally by faculties instead of colleges.

    (Original post by lukerules1234)
    That does, thank you so much !

    In your example in the last paragraph where you say College B's extra 2 worthy applicants would then be made offers by College A; how are the 2 applicants that are the 'extras' chosen? Would it be that they were not quite as good as the other 3, or would they be picked randomly?

    Also, if someone was brilliant in all aspects of their application, are you saying that they will not be guaranteed a place at their chosen college? They have as equal a chance as someone who was not as good ('band 3'?
    Not sure about the first question. I'm going to hazard a guess that college B would get first dibs on their own applicants, but I might be completely wrong about this. At the end of the day though, all the candidates have been judged to be worthy of a place at Oxford, so you're really splitting hairs here.

    No one is ever guaranteed a place at their preferred college. Yes, there is theoretically a risk that you might get reallocated even if you are brilliant, but also bear in mind that (1) if you're that exceptional, your own college would probably have called first dibs on you; and (2) ultimately, 75% of applicants do end up at their preferred college.

    I honestly think you're overthinking this. I was reallocated pre-interview, and I definitely didn't give too much thought to it. The vast majority of people (including myself) are very happy with their colleges, regardless of whether they picked them or not.
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    (Original post by lukerules1234)
    I applied to Worcester, but my main reason for asking is because I am just interested Geography at Worcester is v competitive, so there is a fairly high chance I would be pooled, but there's not a lot I can do about it now!

    Of course, this is all assuming I do well in the TSA (*touch wood*) !!
    Ah, good luck!
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    I have tried to aggregate key thoughts into one place. It is lengthy as a result so I hope it does not put people off (if you can't cope with a long student room post humanities at Oxbridge may not be for you but you can skip down to the summary if pushed for time/attention span!). My parents tell me you put the summary/conclusions first in business for just this reason...but not in history so tough!

    Pre-interview: shortlisting, first pooling/reallocation
    Departments rate and group applicants (scores, quantiles), set testing policy/scoring rubrics (including adjustments for school quality/postcode deprivation in line with university guidance), set minimum qualifying score to interview, set ratio of applicants per space for each college to broadly follow, guide college on the % of applicants per quartile within their interview pool and work with them to fill/reallocate from their pool.

    Colleges decide how many spaces in what subjects for final students (based on staffing), usually setting an overall target for e.g. History inc. joint honours though colleges with specific skills e.g. History of Art tutors may also set a guaranteed/minimum target at their discretion for that. In humanities I think colleges tend to get final say on who they interview/pool but are expected to meet the total pool and candidates by quartile guidance from the department meaning they cannot just stack Eton/Charterhouse/Westminster/Harrow/St.Paul's/children of staff/alumni/donors even if they wanted to (and they don't!). Colleges can decide whether to interview someone below qualifying score for exceptional reasons.

    After interview: Offers, second pooling/reallocation
    Department again set the cut-off score for offers, indicate which colleges they want to make open-offers (normally a college with more qualifying students than places, the department sets the criteria for an open offer - normally student needs to be strong enough to have got an offer from all/most colleges - but in humanities think the offering college makes the final decision. Having now met a couple of others who went through this like me it seems in practice if not intent being reallocated at interview increases your chance of being one of the 5-10% open offer recipients. Offer pooling//reallocation also varies between science/humanity in department/college balance but ultimately all departments seek to ensure the 'highest rated' applicants receive offers even if that means reallocating them with agreement of the colleges with 'excess' strong candidates to (presumably grateful) receiving colleges.

    The exact process may vary by subject and college but the goal is shared and it always seeks to put academic potential at the heart of the decision. In some subjects it may be possible for colleges to be more muscular in making their own choices. In my experience some colleges/student guides at interview hint at this. Others/departments hinted the opposite. I was one of 5 getting offers from my school at five different colleges, our best in a decade, and when we compared notes it seemed we all got, or at least perceived we got, slightly different versions. Not quite the X-files but the truth is out there...somewhere.

    There are other wrinkles. As noted sciences are mainly more centralised as more teaching is done at a departmental level but not necessarily uniform across different subject. There is sense in the difference to humanities where there is more reliance on tutorials/college relationships. Some students will get unconditional offers if results are all known. This is attractive to departments/colleges for the certainty factor but they also worry about gap students losing focus/forgetting stuff so it is still a minority of total offers given. Those of who apply in A-level/IB/other year are not disadvantaged.

    Similarly some deferred students take up some places/free-up others with some year on year volatility. Colleges in humanities offering single and joint honours have discretion on the offers they make (they can pick the best irrespective of subject within an an area) but university wide it tends to average out to be fairly stable...though in History Ancient & Modern I believe 2015 was 19 offers and 2016 interview round (Oct 2017 admission) it was 29 so there is likely to be some volatility as a result in smaller joint honours courses. This risk is offset for applicants as a proportion of people applying for joint honours get offered for single honours, mainly the primary but sometimes the secondary subject...about 5% of total offers last year for history/joint honours as an indication.

    After results: Final admissions
    When results come in both departments and colleges can see if there is an excess or shortage of overall students meeting the grade for particular subjects/colleges. Successful students have offers confirmed.

    Open offer holders have their offer confirmed and may see a sane-day UCAS code change showing they've been reallocated but can face an uncertain couple of days (me!) waiting for definitive e-mail/phone confirmation that their underwriting college has kept them (this could be improved!!!!!). Again there is a multi-step process for this e.g. Biochemistry outline a 9 step approach that can be summarised more simply as can simply be kept by offering college if they have a space, then others who made open offers (you can take someone else's ahead of your own), then colleges with spaces, then other colleges and then back round and finally back to the offering college who have to admit if nobody else takes them. This feels over-engineered and I'm told anecdotally it is simpler in most humanities subjects with a short window for a college to make a claim pre UCAS results day (as they know before we do) or defaulting to the offering college but file under 'gossip' not fact.

    IF there are still gaps at certain colleges they may (with departmental discretion) reconsider students who just missed the grade but that is not common (best just make the grades!!) as they may just admit one fewer student for one year.

    This is a personal aside/rant so skip if bored
    Cambridge operates a small summer pool to assist with this but Oxford uses Open Offers as discussed. I think the Cambridge method (slightly modified) might be better writing as an Oxford open offer recipient! It is an odd situation to find yourself in as you've lost any control of your own destinity but still have an illusion of clarity that could then all change after the results are processed. As an applicant I found it the worst of all worlds and it dimmed my joy in my offer and somewhat (obviously not drastically) affected my studies until I had a chance to re-group/re-focus at the end of term. If you don't absolutely 'know' the college a guaranteed place at Oxford/Cambridge and a summer pool process is best as you can 'park it' mentally fo after the exams without trying to understand the complexities. It is my view that open offers increase certainty for colleges but at the expense of applicant well-being. Ultimately as an applicant you get over it and get on with it (or get in a huff/decline it) but I'd love to see ths changed to a more student-centric process. Rant over!!

    Summary
    Oxford seems to have multiple processes with nuanced differences working within a single shared framework of key activities, policies (diversity etc.) & dates set centrally by the university and tests, scoring set centrally by the department. Based on friend experience Cambridge is more decentralised again with colleges uptimate arbiters of offers, pooling across the board (but Cambridge students/colleges can confirm or correct this).

    This is part of the 'history/charm' and it does help ensure tutors 'buy-in' to their student intake in humanities but I do think it may be one barrier among several to potential students without strong school, family/friend support to help navigate and prepare. The process may well, despite the many reforms, still be a contributing factor as somebody above suggests in dissuading applicants from certain ethnic and social backgrounds. The universities have more data than is publicly shared and may have a view or may conclude they need to do more to get a view. They shied away from completely central admissions in a relatively recent review and it wasn't just stubbornly clinging to old habits. There are valid reasons as I've tried to highlight.

    Conclusion on the process(es)
    The colleges may not like my assessment but I personally think if the data suggests admissions process (andperhaps more importantly the ethnic/social diversity of admissions staff & tutors) is still a factor in impairing diversity/poorer students from applying the push for uniform central admissions will be impossible to ignore. In my judgement it will be impossible to convince politicians and public they are doing everything to level the knowledge/preparation playing field otherwise.

    I hope this helps and I apologise for the length but it IS complex! Right at the death I am tagging in @BrasenoseAdm again (sorry for the evening shout but it can definitely wait for another day!!!) as they can correct all my misunderstandings at leisure whilst avoiding the politics of whether/not to centrally admit.

    Back to the Oxford essay grindstone!
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    (Original post by SonOfAGeek)
    ...I personally think if the data suggests admissions process (andperhaps more importantly the ethnic/social diversity of admissions staff & tutors) is still a factor in impairing diversity/poorer students from applying the push for uniform central admissions will be impossible to ignore...Back to the Oxford essay grindstone!
    Thanks SOAG. Humanities eh -what are they like?

    On the last point about the deterrent effect on applicants from disadvantaged groups, my guess would be that the complexity of the internal decision making process is of secondary importance. Much more significant is that the special logistics of application for the student really does disadvantage some applicants. I have worked with many young people who have negligible parental support, or who must rely on social care services for a lot of the things that other teenagers routinely get from their family. For them, it would be much harder to organise an Oxford application - bearing in mind that you need to book the aptitude test, maybe submit some past work, apply by an unusually early date, prepare for and then arrange transport to Oxford for the interview. These are all things that are additional to other Uni applications.

    Very few support workers will know about this, let alone see it as their job to arrange it all. Few teachers will, either. So young people without the active support of a parent/carer never get over the first hurdle of making a good and timely application, let alone to be in a position to present themselves confidently at interview.

    Hope the essay goes well
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    (Original post by Beth_H)
    I have no idea of the specifics, but they will have a decent idea of a student's interests and specialisms from their personal statement and any written work sent prior to interview, so they can use that to judge which applicants have a good chance of thriving under the particular tutors at that college, but when you're dealing with that many applications there's always going to be some element of randomness. It's really not to do with ability, though, and you shouldn't take it as any reflection on yourself if you don't happen to be interviewed at your first choice college.
    No that's not what's done. They don't match against specialisations for undergrads.
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    (Original post by lukerules1234)
    To be honest, I'm as confused as I was at the beginning xD Everyone is giving different answers. I'm not that bothered really, I will just do the best I can, but I'm still interested and would like to understand it
    The only advice/insight to pay attention to is that from actual admissions staff like Brasenose. It's consistent and honestly not that confusing...

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    (Original post by returnmigrant)
    (Having read all of this, is it any wonder that many applicants find the entire Oxford application process totally baffling and apply somewhere else. If Oxford is actually serious about increasing social diversity, this archaic and unfathomable process really does need a total overhaul.)
    How does Oxford's diversity compare with Bristol?

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    (Original post by Doonesbury)
    The only advice/insight to pay attention to is that from actual admissions staff like Brasenose. It's consistent and honestly not that confusing...

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    Agree that only official admissions can give the official story. I tried to condense as much input from Brasenose in my post as possible. On the other hand the ‘official’ view does sometimes not align 100% with the observed reality of those who go through the process(for example the official line on open offers does not reflect the student experience - it isn’t factually wrong but it is incomplete as it lacks a syptudent perspective/voice). This is by definition anecdotal evidence so cannot be relied upon for decisions but can still be useful contex/provoke thinking for people as they navigate through.

    I think OxFossil makes an excellent point on how the complexity of the process presents real barriers to many applicants. I’d add that the cost inherent in the interview process is a factor as some people simply cannot afford to travel. The university needs to look at funding interview travel costs at least for low-income families which may mean capturing that information earlier in the application process.
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    (Original post by SonOfAGeek)
    I’d add that the cost inherent in the interview process is a factor as some people simply cannot afford to travel. The university needs to look at funding interview travel costs at least for low-income families which may mean capturing that information earlier in the application process.
    Dunno about Oxford but many Cambridge colleges will assist with travel costs in cases of need.

    "To enable applicants to come to interview in Cambridge, the Colleges are pleased to provide support for travel costs to students who are in local authority care and/or are currently in receipt of free school meals and who attend a UK maintained sector school/college. Public transport travel costs between £20 and £80 will be reimbursed, and the Colleges will contact eligible applicants directly with further information when they’re invited to interview"

    (I'm not sure if this specific support is only at Peterhouse, were it's mentioned, but the use of the word "Colleges" implies it's a wider initiative. However other colleges do certainly provide ad-hoc assistance.)
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